Vocal Fitness Training - Warm Ups

Learn the Exercises

Before you sing the Vocal Warm Up Routines, you will need to familiarize yourself with the exercises. The examples below have short descriptions to get you started, including musical and audio examples in the mid and low range. These exercises are not hard to learn, but you should pay attention to such things as lip shape, as it directly affects the success of a good vowel tone, especially some of the /oo/ and /oh/ exercises. These two vowels have a semi-occluded lip shape, which can help to assist the movement of the vocal cords, which can be helpful as part of a warm up session.

Four basic vowel sounds used in the warm up routines: /oo/, /oh/, /ah/ and /ee/. Once the vowel has been introduced, continue to follow the lip shaping instructions as initially presented. Exercise patterns that occur on different vowels once introduced, are not repeated.

Please take some time to go through these units, as they will also serve to warm up your voice as you learn them. If you are interested in further instruction, all of this information, and more can be found in the book, Sing! 20 Singing Lessons to Improve Your Voice. 

1. The Vowel Sound /oo/

Sing /yoo/ five times in a row, separating each syllable with a stop (or breath)

You must repronounce every syllable within the scale with the same amount of energy as the first to develop a consistent muscle position. You will do this by restarting each syllable you sing using the exact mouth position as the previous one and by continuing the stretch throughout the duration of each pitch.

You should feel a slight pull on your cheek muscles as you stretch your lips forward. You will feel and hear this from the inside as a muffled vibration in this part of your mouth.

Sing a descending five-note scale while connecting the double-vowel pattern /oo-ee/ on each note.

Sing the /oo/ vowel, with the forward stretch, followed by the /ee/ vowel, which will move your muscles into a natural smiley stretch with a slight lift of the cheek muscles.

You may notice a slight “w” sound when changing to the /ee/, which simply indicates that you are doing the exercise properly as you engage your lip muscles. If you are creating an “oo-wee” sound, that is okay, as it is a good indicator of strong muscle engagement.


The exercise consists of a descending five-note pattern on a connected /yoo-yoo/.  As you sing each /yoo/, your lips will move back to initiate the pronunciation of the “y” consonant

Be careful not to lock your lips in a protruding fashion when you repeat the syllables. Instead, you need to repronounce each syllable as in previous exercises.

This exercise for /oo/ uses the same descending five-note scale, but removes the “y” consonant between the notes; an example of sustained legato on the same vowel.

You should strengthen the articulation by stretching the lips forward in the /oo/ shape continually through the phrase.

Legato yoo

The next step is to elongate the /oo/ vowel sound with a technique called the cry. To sing a cry, you will begin singing on a specific pitch, and glissando or glide slowly through a group of nonspecific pitches, similar to the sound you would hear produced by a siren, owl, or slide whistle.

Start by singing the cry and then repeat the same articulation with your lips and mouth as you move from pitch to pitch singing the descending scale.

5th cry and Descending scale

These exercises help you experience the way the ribs and the intercostal muscles stay active while you are singing.

1. Breathe to a comfortably full position, and sing the first three notes slowly.

2. Without collapsing your ribcage, silently breathe in enough air to replenish what you exhaled singing the three notes in step 1.

3. Sing the next two notes slowly and evenly.

4. Breathe again silently refilling the exhaled air without collapsing the ribcage.

5. Continue in this manner to the end of the exercise. When you are finished, release all the air in your lungs. 

The key to singing these exercises correctly is learning how to allow the air back into your lungs when you rebreathe. Specifically, you will need to resist the inclination to hold your breath after you stop singing the first three notes, because that closes the vocal cords. Another common mistake is to relax and exhale, which collapses the rib position.

2. The Vowel Sound /oh/

3. The Vowel Sound /ah/

The lip posture for /ah/ should have a very slightly lifted lateral (smiley) stretch. Use the consonant /b/, /m/, and the hum to help to initiate the vowel portion of the syllables by using its movement to reach the vowel shape. Try to avoid a totally relaxed pronunciation or dark production of the /ah/ vowel, rather, try to keep it bright and cheery.

4. The Vowel Sound /ee/

The lip posture for /ee/ should also have a slightly lifted lateral (smiley) stretch. Use the consonant /m/ and the hum to help to initiate the vowel portion of the syllables by using its movement to reach the vowel shape. If you would like to learn how to add a pre-hum to these /ee/ exercises, read the tab below. Adding a hum adds a little semi-occluded vocal exercise and helps to give the /ee/ a good start.

Learning the /hmm . . . mee/ Movement

In this exercise, you will combine the sounds “hmm” and /mee/ using slightly lifted lateral (smiley) stretch of the hum to set up an exaggerated pronunciation for the /ee/ vowel. Combining the hum and slightly lifted smiley stretch helps to create more space inside the acoustic chamber of the vocal tract, improving the vocal sound.

For now, you must consciously use a gentle slight smiley stretch when practicing this exercise, with the intention of creating new muscle memory and habit. As you improve and the muscles become stronger and more flexible, you will replace an overt external smile with a slight lifting of the cheeks on the outside instead.

Be careful not to grip your lower jaw and front neck muscles when you pronounce the /ee/. This will sometimes happen to people if they show their lower teeth while pronouncing the /ee/. This presents itself as a very toothy smile that some people get in the habit of making (I sometimes refer to it as the fashion model smile). This could negatively affect the correct position you need to create to sing the /ee/ properly.

You will learn this exercise faster if you practice in front of a mirror. You will speak this exercise as two separate syllables, hmm … and mee … in order to set up the sequence of muscle movements.

  1. Gently stretch your facial muscles into a slight smiley stretch with your mouth slightly open and breathe in.
  2. Begin the onset of the vocal sound by closing your mouth and speaking a “hmm” for at least one full beat.
  3. Stop the “hmm” sound. Relax your lips.
  4. Press your lips together to prepare the “m” consonant sound of the second syllable, /mee/.
  5. Pronounce the “mm” sound and use the hum of the consonant sound “m” to gently stretch back into a slight smiley stretch while speaking an /ee/. This will produce the syllable /mee/.
  6. Continue to stretch the muscles in the natural smiley stretch as you say /ee/, being careful not to tense the neck muscles.
  7. Release the vowel with your breath but keep stretching your cheek muscles.
  8. Relax your mouth.

Connecting the /hmm/ and /mee/

The key to properly executing the connected version of this exercise is to continue the hum as you are preparing the consonant sound “m” to say /mee/. There are two separate smiley movements, one for the hum and another for the /mee/. Sometimes it helps if you think of this as a two-syllable word, /hmm—mee/. It is important to learn this exercise correctly before moving on, as it encourages a specific muscle pattern and coordination that occurs throughout the book.

Here is how you will connect the hum and the /mee/:

  1. Stretch your facial muscles into the slight smiley stretch position with your mouth slightly open and breathe in.
  2. Begin the onset of the vocal sound by closing your mouth and, as you speak the hum, gently stretch your smiling muscles. Speak the “hmm” for at least one full beat.
  3. Continue voicing the hum but, as you do, relax your lip and cheek muscles.
  4. Press your lips together to pronounce the “m” and then use the consonant sound to gently stretch your muscles into the natural smiley stretch position to speak the /ee/ vowel. This will produce the syllable /mee/.
  5. Continue to stretch the muscles in the natural smiley stretch as you say /ee/.
  6. Release the vowel with your breath.
  7. Relax the natural smiley stretch.