Vocal warm ups are not just for actors. Here is a quick and easy routine you can do, whether you have to go on stage, or if you have to speak for an extended period of time.
A) Make sure you are physically relaxed. Much vocal tension comes from physical tension. Refer if you like to my previous piece on The Importance of Warming Up, and remember to breathe deep as you do this.
B) Put your hand just below your solar plexus and above your navel and activate the diaphragm muscle by gently whispering HUH. It should move in and up as you breathe out and out and down as you breathe in causing the belly to distend. Lightly pant “HUH” for 30 seconds. You should feel the muscle working. Then add voice to the breath and speak HUH out loud. You should feel the diaphragm pushing the sound out, as though the sound is originating in the pit of your belly. Do this a few times. Check that your shoulders and knees are loose, swing them if need be. Then try HAH, HEY and HI.
C) Go back to HUH. Try saying it twice as HUH HUH – you should sound a little like a duck! Once you’ve established that, breathe in deeply so the hand on your diaphragm moves as the belly distends. Say HUH HUH, but on the second HUH, close your lips on the sound so that it becomes a hum. Keep humming until you’re about to run out of breath, and open your lips on MUH. Put together it should sound like HUH-HUHMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMUH! Walk around the room, keeping the shoulders and knees loose and trying different notes. Notice where in your body the sound resonates depending on the pitch you use. If you are using a high note, see if you can send it down lower in your body and vice versa. If you do this for 5 minutes and then speak to someone after, you will be surprised to hear that your voice is much warmer and more resonant and free. If you only have time for one of these steps, then this should be your priority.
D) Work on your vowels by articulating OOH – OH – AW – AH – AY – EE in as over-pronounced way as possible. Then take a deep breath and run them all together. It should sound like WHY OOH WHY OOH WHY OOH….and so on.
E) Reverse this by doing the same with EE – AY – AH – AW – OH – OOH, which will then sound like YOW EE YOW EE YOW EE… and so on.
F) Work your consonants by articulating PUH – TUH – KUH – BUH – DUH – GUH in as over pronounced way as possible.
G) Put the vowels and consonants together by running through the following a few times. See if you can keep the body loose and push the sound out with the diaphragm.
POO POH PAW PAH PAY PEE
TOO TOH TAW TAH TAY TEE
KOO KOH KAW KAH KAY KEE
BOO BOH BAW BAH BAY BEE
DOO DOH DAW DAH DAY DEE
GOO GOH GAW GAH GAY GEE
H) Finally, keeping the same principle of breathing into the diaphragm area, and pushing the sound out from there while keeping the neck, shoulders and knees loose, try a few tongue twisters. Some good ones are:
Hot coffee in a proper copper coffee pot
The tip of the tongue, the teeth and the lips
She sells sea shells on the sea shore
Two toads totally tired tried to trot to Tewksbury
There’s a chip shop in space which sells space ship shaped chips.