It's time to retake our vocal warm-up process, which we started with 10 minutes of thoracic diaphragm and vocal folds relaxation. Our purpose this time is to go one step further and deal with one of the most difficult things to achieve when singing: smooth transitions between our two main voice ranges.
In the first part of our warm-up exercises, you learned how to transition smoothly from a calm and deep breathing to an open and relaxed singing. This brief workflow takes 5–10 minutes and consists of four steps. In this article we will retake the third step in order to carry on our warm-up while working on the consistency of our vocal sound.
Smooom in figure 8
It’s the same “smooom” we produced with closed lips at the beginning of our warm-up session (see the first part). Remember that you have to keep your mouth very wide open, but without feeling any muscle contraction in your jaws. The expression on your face should be like when you need to yawn but want to keep your mouth shut so that nobody notices…!
Give a slight attack to the sound with your diaphragm — use the “sm” at the beginning of the sound — and start with a note in the middle of your vocal range. You don’t need to force your cords or be too loud. You must keep relaxed and make sure that each attack is as fast and precise as possible so that your voice immediately finds the right vibration for each note…although with this exercise we can also practice some pitch bending.
Once you’ve reached a note, start exploring your vocal range by pitching down the note. If you want to focus on the medium range, use your chest voice. Try to keep the same singing position and move your body as little as possible while lowering the pitch.
You should usually feel the need to press your diaphragm a bit and open your mouth some more. This is totally normal and you should go on gently while enjoying the feel of diving into a world of warm and vivid harmonics: a real massage for your whole trunk! Pay attention to your lips, they should always remain closed.
Repeat the sound and the progressive downward shifting. Every time you do this, try to go a bit deeper until the vibration of your voice disappears in the deepness. You ought to have the impression that you are getting louder (but it’s just an impression).
To the sky…
The second stage consists in discovering the other side, which means doing some pitch bending towards the higher frequencies. Start once again from your medium range and try to shift the pitch as high as possible.
Here you’ll face a new problem: at a certain point you’ll feel the famous transition between your different voices because you’ll try to switch to your “head voice.” It’s very easy to feel this with the “smooom, ” since you are relaxed and you don’t move. You’ll notice that there is a sound gap across a small number of notes (approximately from B-flat 3 to D4). But don’t panic, this is quite normal!
To avoid this gap, just try to increase the diaphragm pressure slightly while increasing the yawn-like movement. Try to find a balance between muscle contraction (you’ll feel it) and smoothness of sound: too much contraction will produce a stiff and forced sound, while less contraction won’t be enough and the gap will not disappear. Try different things out until you succeed in crossing the gap seamlessly!
Help yourself when bending your voice upward: the sound must roll on the soft palate while “digging” as high as possible in your head, in your sinus. Combined with the pressure of your diaphragm, this sensation will allow you to find your high range without any effort.
Make some additional upward repetitions before you attempt to combine both upward and downward exercises, either going from low to high notes or vice versa. You’ll notice that the transition between chest and head voice is easier the faster you do the exercise. That’s why you have to work at different rhythms, depending on how you feel. And don’t hesitate to make short back-and-forth passes across your gap. Take care not to force the sound: it should always stay as consistent as possible and never be too loud.
In the upcoming third part of our vocal warm-up, we’ll work once again with the “smooom, ” which is very convenient to warm-up without getting tired. Plus, we’ll try to control the different resonators we have to increase vibrations.