Essential vocal warmups before treading the boards or taking before the camera
A complete guide for actors
As an actor your performance depends upon your voice being ready to work for whatever the day ahead presents. As every actor knows, treading the boards or undertaking day after day in front of the camera can be demanding. So with that in mind we present ten essential vocal warm-ups to prepare both body and mind for the challenge of theatre and screen.
1. Getting started with rhythmic humming
Find a quiet spot to lie down with your back flat to the floor. Start off your routine by humming in a low tone breathing deeply in between hums. Once into a rhythm, roll onto your side, pause, hum and then roll over to the other side. Whilst doing this always try to maintain your rhythm. Begin changing the tones of your hums going through a scale without straining your vocalchords.
2. Going round and round with neck rolls
Now it’s time for neck rolls. Begin these by slowly rolling your head clock-wise and then roll back around in the other direction. Repeat this process for around 3 minutes and finish off by shaking your shoulders. This exercise is perfect for relaxing your neck and throat muscles.
3. Go for some self-massage
Now it’s time to relax those face muscles, so undertake a little self-massage. Place your fingers on the joint between your lower and upper jaw and begin massaging in a circular motion with your fingers. Then start gently opening and closing your jaw while still massaging.
4. Loosen up a little
At this stage you can have a little hop up and down and shake out every part of your body moving from the feet upwards. This will awaken your body and get your blood pumping. Here are some extra tips.
5. Take up lion and mouse impressions
This exercise is pretty well known amongst actors and involves standing in front of a mirror and beginning by stretching your mouth wide and stretching your tongue; this primary part emulates a Lion’s snarl. Follow this with a mouse impression where your facial expression should be squinted and made as small as possible emulating a mouse’s face. Switch between these two characters for a few minutes and feel your face warm up encouraging healthy circulation.
6. Getting a little cheeky with tongue exercises
Now it’s time to warm up that tongue (which is after all a muscle of significant size and strength). Begin this part by pointing your tongue out as far as possible attempting to touch your chin then move it upwards trying to touch the tip of your nose. Alternate between these two stretches and the work your tongue from side to side.
7. Take up an ambulance impression
Impersonating an ambulance may look and sound rather odd, but the vocal range that it demands can be perfect for readying your voice for high and low notes in equal measure. You may just want to find a quiet and closed off area in which to do it!
8. Get your lips in sync
This exercise prepares your lips by doing ‘lip trills’; this involves putting your lips together and then forcing air through them so your lips trill like a horses. Start by doing this off voice and then introduce a hum underneath. Progress that hum through a range of tones eventually going from your lowest note to your highest and back again.
9. Indulge in a little deep breathing
At this point you can ready both your body and mind for performance by indulging in a few deep breathing exercises. So find a quiet place to stand and focus in on the timing and depth of your breathing. Ensure that your shoulders aren’t tight and that your chest is relaxed. To help you master this exercise you may wish to hold your hand over your stomach and breath into your hand. This will help you keep time and awareness of your breathing. You can further this by hissing each time you exhale (which is perfect for those who struggle to slow their breathing down).
10. Finish off with some wonderful words which require work
Finish off the routine by running through a range of tongue twisters. This not only serves to exercise your face, mouth and tongue in equal measure, but it can also help prepare you for the challenging script or performance that you’re just about to face.