The most important thing to remember is that your vocal chords, or folds, are a muscle. If you’re about to run a race, you need to warm up your legs. If you are about to sing a concert, be part of a long recording session, or practice for a lengthy duration, then your vocal muscles need to be warmed up as if they were any other muscle group. I don’t pretend to be a vocalist myself, but I do study and learn as any Composer and athlete must do, and I have come to a few conclusions that might be helpful.
1. A warm-up is not a performance. It should be short, efficient, and varied depending on the style of music being performed.
2. Don’t warm up with traditional, “Classical”, routines if you are about to go on stage and play with your death metal band. Instead find a good median that begins with a slower, softer, and possibly sillier sounding warm-up.
3. As you’re stretching out the vocal folds then proceed to more extremes dealing with dynamics, intensity, speed etc.
If you watch players on your favorite team, mine being the Deutschen Fussball-Bund, or German national soccer team, then you notice lighter skipping, shuffles, and jogging followed by quick twitch muscle sprints and high knees. As a general rule, keep this quote in mind, “Warm muscles bend, cold muscles break.”
A more specific outline for a good vocal warm-up might be a short, effective physical stretch followed by a 5-10 minute vocal stretch that begins gently in a comfortable range and volume. Increase the intensity and range as you feel the muscles opening up. Some recommendations are to use siren sounds on various semi-occluded sounds such as Lip Bubbles and Tongue Trills as they are not key or pitch specific and can be done anywhere. Plus, it’s just fun to make sounds as you would a child.