A Singer’s Warmup? There’s an app for that.
Ed: Thanks to Queensland Conservatorium final year Musical Theatre major Connor Sweeney who has road-tested a couple of popular vocal warmup apps for Greenroom. Connor has indicated the pros and cons of each in the article below. By the way, there are lots and lots out there. Check the link at the end of the article. Thanks, Connor.
A performer’s warm up should leave him or her in a focused, optimistic emotional state, with awareness of the body’s strengths and weaknesses to work on for the day. A good warmup needs to be more than a hasty throat clearing after the first cappuccino of the day.
For me, a warmup needs to happen in this order: full body stretch, breathing, gentle vocalisation (starting soft, getting louder), pitch range (sirens, scales and arpeggios), articulation work after which you are free to work on repertoire or specific vocal qualities.
The best thing about this warm up approach is that you are free to work on any text: song, verse or prose. That’s my personal warm up, but its formula is pretty universal. With this in mind, I present to you my reviews and comparison of two different apps for singers.
Warm Me Up!
Cost: $7.50 from iTunes Store and Google Play
Last updated: 13 November, 2013
Warm Me Up! classifies itself as a comprehensive, varied vocal warm up tool for today’s singer – professional and amateur alike, as well as for individuals and groups. The authors of this app are working Australian Musical Directors Luke Hunter, Vicky Jacobs and David Young.
The app is certainly comprehensive and varied, with 50 exercises to choose from, split evenly across 5 categories:
- Gentle Start – legato slides on a voiced fricative over an interval of a 5th at the most, but it does take you above your passagio (the range where you can select head or chest resonance);
- Getting Warmer- legato slides with bigger intervals and pure vowels;
- Extending the Range- legato vowel work that takes you into reasonably high range for chest resonance;
- Mouth Workout – articulation ahoy! Fast sentences and tongue twisters over simple musical phrases;
- Tuning up – long, melodically tricky phrases. Some familiar classical tunes. You start to get more musical with less warming up at this stage.
The app also is split into four voice types, high/low female/male.
The cool features of this app are the Warm Me Up function, and My Warm Ups. With Warm Me Up you put in your vocal range and how much time you want to spend warming up (5-30 minutes) and press Go and it randomises activities from the list and sets you on your way. Better than this is the My Warm Up function which gives you access to all 200 exercises (50 exercises time 4 vocal ranges), and gives you as much as time as you need to warm up your way.
Things the app should have to make it better:
- The longer trickier phrases in the Tuning Up section could use a transcription of the melody, or a slowed-down version. Some of them are too complicated to replicate after one listen;
- Photos of correct vowel shapes;
- A different male demonstrator. His placement is a bit nasal for my liking;
- Some straight tone/vibrato work, although this one can be left to the discretion of the singer.
Warm Me Up! is a very useful app with some wise exercises, a few of which I use daily in my warm ups and are advocated by staff at the Queensland Conservatorium Bachelor of Musical Theatre course where I am currently training in my third year. The exercises would be put to good use by ensemble directors trying to achieve a unified sound, particularly in the Tuning Up section. If using it privately, play with all the exercises and make a warm up playlist that best serves you.
Vocal Tool Kit Pro, Male
Cost: $6.49 from iTunes Store. Also available Female version, and for Dancers for $4.76 on Google Play.
Last updated: 23 August, 2011
If you watched the Tony Awards this year, you would have heard the name Liz Kaplan in regards to keeping Broadway stars voices going. This is her app, based on what she teaches at her Studio. It is an amalgamation of four different apps, aimed at different styles of singers: Musical theatre, Pop/RnB, Rock/Blues, and Country.
You get warm ups, workouts and information on each section. The warm ups involve a video-lead full body and facial stretch, and two simple exercises for audition, recording and performance scenarios. The Work Out section has two different exercises each for improving power, sustaining, tone, singing with congestion, pitch accuracy and cool down. Liz also provides extensive written information on auditions, recording, performance, feeding the voice, dressing to sing, and singing with congestion. The warm ups for the four sections are different, but the Work Outs and info are the same.
The best things about this app are the stretching videos. They are clearly explained and so useful for lessening tension. The warm ups are well suited to the scenario they cater for. My trust in Liz Kaplan’s reputation gives me high hopes for the Work Outs, although I have not tried them yet.
I’m not going to suggest one app over the other because their reasons for development are very different. But if you are looking for a warm up app, Warm Me Up! has a HUGE selection of useful exercises and a lot of customisability, which is important because taking control helps for a good mental warm up, and the more you know what your needs are, the more effective you can make your warm up. Vocal Tool Kit Pro is excellent value for the amount of information you get, and for the stretching videos.
My advice to you, dear reader, is to keep learning about what makes a good warm up for you. If you can take inspiration from the exercises in these apps, they will have been worth the cost. Your greatest resources are your mentors and your peers. Discuss your warm ups with each other. Read books like Voice and the Actor by Cicely Berry and Freeing the Natural Voice: Imagery and Art in the Practice of Voice and Language by Kristin Linklater. Become as clued in about your body as you can. Break a leg.
Please share any other texts/apps you have used, I would love to hear about them.
Ed: Here’s a link to 25+ Apps for Vocal Warmups which you might also find useful.