Motors, Slides, and Melodic Mirrors
There are many ways to warm-up the voice. Often the best warm-ups are the most simple. Motor lips, vocal slides, and melodic mirroring are three basic sound exercises that I engage in with people.
The act of creating a motor with the mouth involves blowing a strong gust of air and sound through closed lips. This act vibrates the lips and away we go! Try it. Perhaps channel your inner infant. As babies we all were born cooing and babbling through our full vocal range. I guess one of my purposes as a voice teacher is to remind people how healthy it is to just simply make weird noises sometimes. If motor lips is tricky, stick your fingers into the outside of your cheeks and that may help in your success at starting your engine. It's really impossible to be serious while engaging in motor lips; often laughter bubbles out from hidden corners of the body. Ah yes, sound making should be fun.
Another warm-up I like a lot, I call sirens or vocal slide. A siren consists of starting as high as the voice is comfortable with and sliding down to the lowest comfortable note, then back up again. Sirens can be done up down up or down up down. I will join with a person and slide alongside them so that they feel supported. If they seem ready, then I may let them try it on their own. Sirens can be done anywhere, maybe just not early in the morning when everyone in your house is fast asleep. On the other hand it could be a good wake-up call, perhaps better then an electric alarm.
And lastly, melodic mirroring is the act of making improvised sounds and asking an individual to repeat and mirror the sounds. This is like throwing a sound ball back and forth; it really is sound play. You can do this with friends anywhere. Just sing a simple, short melody and have the other person sing it back. Then switch and have them lead and you follow. This is both fun and good for training the ear. Improvisation can get the creative juices flowing and great songs often have come from improvisation sessions with my students. Sometimes the best melodies come when we are having fun and not trying too hard to be brilliant.
Each of these warm-ups invites a feeling of play and creativity into the room. Without that, we don't have much. Serious singing is something I try to avoid. Don't get me wrong, focus is very important as well as a passionate engagement with what's being sung. But learning to play and to take our voice/self a bit less seriously can be a way to find more vocal freedom and can often lead to rich vocal discoveries and unavoidable growth. Sing on... -A