Thursday, November 24, 2011

Notes On "The Warm Up"

Our goal as performing artists is much like that of a top athlete or dancer, to be completely relaxed at the same time as being ready for anything. To be energized, (like an athlete or dancer), we need preparation. Being this "available" to the moment entails warming up properly.
For singers with stage fright or less than strong technique a quick vocal warm up before soundcheck isn't enough to contract the underlying panic and ensuing physical tension. We need a more comprehensive approach that includes a really solid vocal warm up, so there are no lingering doubts about our ability to perform the material.
A vocal warm up not only prepared the voice for the demands we are about to place upon it, but can also create a psychological calm knowing we are truly ready for the job at hand. I also highly recommend a good physical warm up made up of relaxing exercises that will help focus both the mind and body to be present and ready for anything that might come our way on stage.


For a singer this warm up always starts and ends with the breath. The breath is the first place that stage fright will manifest. Fear makes us freeze up so that our breathing becomes shallow. Sometimes our diaphragm will stiffen leaving us unable to create sound in a relaxed and liberated way. Taking the time to breath through a warm up will help remind us to breath during the show and plant the idea in our heads that we can only do "the best we can" under the circumstances.
I have found the single most important way to counteract perfectionism
and the ensuing anxiety singers experience before studio or live dates is to use a vocal and physical warm up that is calming at a core level. It is important that the warm up builds in the idea of just "doing our best" and let go of the pressure to achieve the "perfect" performance.

And if we find ourselves losing control, straining for notes, losing pitch or running out of air? The best rescue for a song going wrong is always big deep breath. All the useful oxygen floods our brain, and the motor of the car is suddenly flush with gas. Your pitch will start to correct and suddenly you will be able to hold notes again. Try it! You'll be glad you did!
It takes years to develop the pre show warm up that works best for you but once you start preparing for shows in this way you will start to feel an increased sense of liberation and ease in performance knowing you've done everything in your power to make the experience easier.

Happy Singing!
Micah Barnes
(PS DEC 4TH SINGERS PLAYGROUND Performance workshop at the beautiful Winchester Street Theatre in Toronto is filling up get in touch if you are interested in jumping in. We do cover a proper warm up in class!
Details at

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