Wouldn’t we all love to have a soundproof studio where we could sing as loudly and freely as we wanted, without anyone to disturb? But it’s not an option for most of us — and too often, we find sometimes unwilling audiences in our neighbours, flatmates, partners, kids and even pets (if you’ve ever had a cat worriedly rub against your ankles whilst you’re working on arpeggios, you’ll know what I mean).
So how do you get the ol’ vocal cords warmed up and ready without risking a Cease and Desist order from the people around you?
Here are some simple exercises you can do to keep your voice and lungs supple and well-exercised (you can even do them in the car or at your desk in the office!):
1. Make great posture and effective breathing the norm
We’re creatures of habit. That means when we do something often enough, it becomes second nature. Being mindful of great singing posture all the time means that it’ll become that much easier to sing better at rehearsals and during a performance. Try working on great singing posture wherever you are: ribcage out, shoulders back and down and knees unlocked if you’re standing. Work on your breathing, keeping your ribs open when you breathe in, and controlling airflow with your abdominal muscles when you breathe out. Do this every day and you may be surprised to find yourself being able to hold a note a little longer than you’re used to!
2. Do stretchy stuff
In an ideal world, we’d have a few hours of yoga every day to keep our muscles in great shape. In the real world (unless you’re a yoga instructor) we have to go to work, sit in front of computer screens, run errands, play chauffeur or carry grocery bags. But there’s no need to give up all hope of well-conditioned muscles. A simple 5-10 minute stretch every day is a great way to maintain your instrument — you!
It’s quiet, non-confrontational and unlikely to disturb anyone at home. Start gentle and easy, with slow hums while sighing. Try five notes up and down, building up slowly to hum full scales and runs. Keep your throat relaxed and your voice going straight out without any strain.
4. Do everything but sing
Get your score out and prepare your body the way you would if you were singing full-volume. Breathe the way you’d breathe and mouth the words without actually singing them, or hum the notes while mouthing the words. You’re giving your body muscle memory — i.e. telling it what to remember and what to expect.
Of course, at some point you’ll still have to sing and practise at the correct volume as well, but if you don’t have the privacy or time to do so, these four options are much better than not singing at all.
And then there’s the final cheat — if you absolutely don’t have time for any of these, listen to rehearsal tracks on repeat, 5 or 10 times if need be. It’s bound to stick somewhere in your head, making note learning a whole lot easier and faster!