Ever since I've had access to recording equipment, I have made little playbacks for myself so that I could practice warming up my voice, getting the breath support turned on, singing through scales, or developing some facility I need for a difficult song I'm learning,
Over the years I started making them for students so they would hopefully be motivated to practice some of these things instead of just singing their songs.
I'm always posting new playbacks, so check back when you want and see what's new.
Before you undertake any of these exercises, please read more about practicing.
IMPORTANT: Please listen through the playbacks to hear what the singer is doing. Sometimes you can hear her own struggles as she moves through the exercise, but the wrinkles slowly smooth out, as they will with you. The range is kept relatively small in most of the playbacks. The singer sings once and then you sing after.
These playbacks are not put in any particular order. I am not presenting a program; just a bunch of exercises. Some are easy and won't cause you any problems but some are not. If you're experiencing any tension or strain, please stop! Also give yourself breaks. Don't overwork your voice by doing too much.
EXERCISE ONE: Sirens
Just do what the singer is doing. She changes how she sings the octaves, giving examples of different ways to do it. Carry the voice up through the register breaks and carry consistently back down. This is the tricky part. Singing up is far more easy than singing down for most singers. Play with how you sing through the exercise and see if you can find a way.
EXERCISE TWO: Sirens
This next siren exercise is best done when the voice is warmer. Try to sing up to the octave in a way that you keep your sound the same. You'll feel your voice move through register breaks, and the point is to not make them noticeable to the listener. Humming up with a "twang" sounds works well.
EXERCISE THREE: Turning on natural breath support.
There are so many voice exercises that will strengthen the breath support. Some are used specifically for breath support; others develop some other strength but the breathing comes with it.
I learned this one (above) when I was very young to stimulate natural breath support. This one was the easiest. Then I moved on to ones that were more challenging.
Yawn a bit before you sing and when you do, let the sound come out as a sigh. You'll use more air this way so that you get to the challenge quicker. The challenge happens at the end when you try to keep your sound going until the music queues the key change. You should feel your abdominal muscles pull in. They are helping you to achieve the goal of keeping your sound going. Let it happen and please don't interfere with it. They know what they're supposed to do.
IMPORTANT: don't worry if you run out of air too soon. Just keep trying until your body figures it out. It's like learning to ride a bike...
EXERCISE FOUR: Long Tones
Long tones are wonderful in helping to connect with vowels and to strengthen the breath support. They also help you to understand that the voice learns through your will. This does not mean, the will to control your voice or the supporting musculature; it means "the will to achieve a goal" which, in this case, is to sing a seemingly endless note and stay in tune while you're doing it.
IMPORTANT: please leave your diaphragm and abdominal muscles alone. They know what to do. Your job is to focus on the vowel and to keep each word going to the end. It will take a little while for your body to figure out how to help you. Just keep your focus in the right place and don't give up trying.
The words being sung are: why... we... feel... so... blue... I... don't... know...
EXERCISE FIVE: In this exercise we practice a 3-note arpeggio, singing through the mid-range. To keep your voice free and flexible, pretend you're an old overworked opera singer with a wobbly voice. Don't constrict vibrato. Let your voice fly up to the high notes. Obviously, this is not how you would sing in a song, but it will loosen things up.
EXERCISE SIX: With this exercise, try to sing with a breathy "we". If I were to spell it, it would be "Whee". You'll hear it in the singer's voice. You'll notice that the highest notes feel different in each new key. Before you can even think about controlling it, first get to know how your voice gets through it without your interference. Be like an old overworked opera singer on this and your voice should stay limber. If you feel any tension, just stop and maybe try again later.