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Is Warming Up Your Voice Really Necessary? 5 Tips To Decide If You Need Warmups Before Singing

Singers have been told to always warm up to protect their vocal health, perform with more ease and get ready for performance. For some, it is absolutely necessary. But some singers don't feel like warmups are beneficial. In fact, some find it boring and draining. So what does research say about warmups?

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When I was in my high school's choir, our director would say that every disciplined singer must have a regular warmup and practice routine. Being the rebellious (!) teens that we were, we would often scoff at that remark. After all, who had the time to warm up every time before singing — and look funny doing it?

Even so, we were always diligent about it: Before each practice and performance, we would warm up using the same set of exercises for about 10 minutes. And we then happily went on to singing, confident in our thoroughly warmed up voices.

It wasn't until a decade later that I met some singers in a vocal technique course who never did warmups before a practice session or a performance. I was perplexed! It was early in the morning (when I didn't even consider myself fully awake) and they would sound brilliant without any warmups. When the topic came up in discussion, they said they never saw the point and simply did not do it.

So how is it that warmups are irreplaceable for some singers and totally unnecessary for others?

What Is A "Warmup"?

It is broadly defined as a set of exercises that one performs before singing or speaking to prepare their instrument. In a way, this is similar to warmups performed by dancers or athletes. As singers and performers progress from beginner to more advanced levels, the importance they give to and the time they spend on warmups increase (1). But when they reach a level of proficiency, they feel more secure in their technique and do not require as long to warm up.

Warmups can last anywhere between 5 to 45 minutes, but the most common practice is to allocate 5 to 10 minutes before practice. Depending on the performer and their performance day routine, some singers can spend hours — yes, you read that correctly — to warm up and prepare. Even though some studies looking at optimum warmup times found that 10 minutes is not enough and they should be around 15 to 30 minutes, it appears they were already assuming that warmups actually made a difference and were therefore necessary before performance. So does it really make that big of a difference?

Let's look at a study from 2012 where they investigated the perception of singers and listeners to determine effectiveness of warmups on the Western classical singing voice.

Can Listeners Tell If The Singer Is Sufficiently Warmed Up?

A study was designed by Lynda Moorcroft and Dianna T. Kenny to see if the singer's perception of their pre- and post-warmup voices matched the evaluation of experienced listeners. 12 female Western classical singers were recorded