This is a topic dear to my heart.
In the past 18 months I've run almost 500 Vocal Work outs. I have never felt more connected to my voice or myself but is a Vocal Work out different to a Vocal Warm up?
The answer is a BIG yes.
So, first, what's a warm up?
A warm up is a deeply personal thing, to take you mentally, physically and vocally to where you need to be: be it an audition, a gig, a presentation, or to find a place of vocal ease to take you through the day.
During ten year in the West End it was my nemesis. I'd do the show warm up, singing along with sweeping, 'Bella signoras,' and arpeggios, scales and sirens, ignoring the tightness that was growing. Then I'd do a tape (cassette? It was the early 2000s!) from my singing teacher in the dressing room, often repeated before act two, whilst continuing to siren sporadically every few minutes in the wings.
One day - voice half ragged and panicking because the director was in - a cast member told me to chill out and took me through a body scan in semi-supine. I stood up after five minutes feeling vocally better than I had in a year.
To me now, a decade later - not performing, full-time vocal coaching, a warm up is taking your given circumstances and guiding them to where they need to be.
It can - if you are lucky enough - be as simple as having a chat with a friend before an audition, engaging your voice and mind enough to set you up. You may be vocally ready but need to mentally warm up with meditation. You may need to go for a long walk to use the rhythm to give certainty to your brain and stop the chatter. You may need to spend some time in your lowest notes to connect you to your body. You might need to focus on massage or stretching or dance around the room to free your voice. You might need to spend ten minutes feeling the sound buzz around your face if you are someone who usually feels the opposite. To find any sound that makes everything feel free, and pleasurable, and efficient and spend a bit of time on it until you feel it's done it's job.
It's personal and mindful and goal orientated, and asks you to listen and respond and understand your own challenges and needs.
But a work out?
A work out is a whole different ball game and - due to the conflict in terminology - is often dismissed. Compared to most physical careers, singers don't practise. We learn a song, go to monthly singing lessons but we don't 'work out'. By which, I mean, show up consistently and practise our craft with repetition and focus, to expand abilities and overcome challenges.
In those first six months of doing daily lockdown 'warm ups', I experimented with explaining what we did as 'vocal check ins', 'time for you and your voice', and landed on the Vocal Gym because it shifted the connotations from 'warming up' (for what?) to 'working out' (ah, that is something that makes me stronger. That is taking ownership)
The Vocal Gym™ is a safe space to explore your voice before entering the confines or associations of repertoire. Because jeez, the perimeters of a song can activate a need for 'perfection' that can stamp on all chances of personal growth. It is there always. Live every day. 24-7 on catch up.
We use the familiar structure of scales and simple sounds to focus on one concept or ideas, be that idea conceptual or one of applied science. To give ourselves a time each day to be mindful, and to breathe in and out for a legitimate amount of time, to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and reap the benefits (anti-inflammatory included) that circulate back to the benefits on vocal and mental health.
The scales act as structures to explore with awareness. It asks us to take 30 minutes a day to put a magnifying glass on one concept.
A lip trill can be explored in infinite ways. Jaw release can be interrogated within the terrains of contrasting vowels or intervals. We can do deep. Obsess with joy. Take an idea one day to discard the next as it didn't work for you. To feel how your voice changes day to day, over time, with different commands, intentions and on different vowels. To show up regularly and let good habits overtake detrimental ones.
The Vocal Gym™ runs daily mornings or evenings at www.thesingspace.com led by Rachel Lynes and guest coaches. Guest coaches 2020-21 include Line Hilton, Barbara Tanze, Jenevora Williams, Stephen king, Oren Boder (RADVOX), Amelia Carr, Becky Gillespie, Rosie Williamson, Patrick Jeremy.
Rachel Lynes -vocal coach
These articles aim to simplify and clarify. My aim is to give you clear exercises that make a big difference.