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Time for us to warm up

Hasn't it turned chilly! Weather aside, the focus of this post is warming up our vocal chords. Always important, and even more so at this time of year...

At the beginning of every choir session, we have vocal warm ups (if you're especially lucky, you also get to do some light movement and stretches). Most of us can name a few inChoir favourites - Rose Red, Our Poor Bird, Toy Boat, A E I O OO, Chicken tikka, and Daddy's got a head like a ping pong ball - for example.

So, we know it is important to warm up our vocal chords before singing, but what do these warm ups actually do? Should we warm up before singing in the car or shower? Could we do any damage while getting our Idina on and performing "Let It Go" in the safety of our car? (I choose to believe that my car is totally soundproof and that - if the music volume is loud enough that I can't hear myself - I could give Idina or Celine a run for their money...).

Vocal chords are muscles like any other in our body. As athletes warm up before training/competing, singers need to warm their vocal chords. Running up and down scales, lip trilling, humming and deep breathing all gently stretch and prepare our vocal chords and lungs. Exercise (in all forms) requires oxygen intake, which in turn stimulates the production of the body’s own mood-lifting endorphins. So, ultimately, singing vocal warm up exercises will benefit you mentally as well as vocally. Just be careful with "One smart fella he felt smart..."! That does require some mental concentration!

Exercises help maintain your voice. Before a long journey, you check your car's water and oil (well...you should...) to ensure that the engine doesn't overheat and sieze after a few hundred miles. Before a singing session, this is the same principle we apply to our vocal chords, so they don't tire and get strained. Always remember to stay hydrated while singing too, especially now the central heating will be on in most rehearsal rooms - not that you'd notice at the Dorking sessions! Brrr!

Particularly relevant for those attending morning sessions; warm ups help our voice recover after not having been used overnight. All kind of mucus builds up inside our mouths and nasal passages when we are asleep, and this reduces the quality of our vocal chords considerably. Singing exercises make your lungs stronger while building stamina so that you can sing for longer periods without feeling exhausted.

While it is unlikely that the vast majority of people will get into their shower or car and do a quick warm up, it is always worth starting with a gentle song or two that are well within your vocal range before attempting full vocal acrobatics! If you find your voice is sore after a singing session, this is your vocal chords' way of telling you that it was all a bit much. Be careful with your voice (no shouting or whispering - whispering is just as bad!), give it some rest and TLC, and maybe practice "Floppy fluffy puppy" before your big sing next time!

Happy singing everyone!

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