Vocal Warm Up Tips by Dee Uluirewa of Hillsong Church

Hi there, my name is Dee, and I’ve had the honour and pleasure of serving on team for about 11 years. I volunteer as a vocalist on our team and feel extremely blessed to be a part of THE best team on the planet, hands down!

Here are a few practical tips that I’ve found to be helpful.

1. Repetition Strengthens.

Warm-up your vocals on a regular basis. These help to strengthen or get the elasticity in your cords, which in turn helps you to connect/bridge your different registers. I try to spend about 10-15 minutes warming up, even longer if I’ve been unwell or haven’t sung in awhile. I find it takes longer to get the voice back to where it was.

Warm-ups: Apart from doing vocal exercises on ascending scales, I find descending scales critical, especially if I’m reaching up to certain notes. The Seth Riggs warm-up CD and the Vocalize U app are the two main tools that I use. Brett Manning is another Vocal Coach who has great resources for vocalists.

2. Vocal Cords Work Off Memory

Practice singing songs at service level. This is a must for me whether at home or in the car. Don’t worry about the traffic, If you get any curious folks staring at you just throw up the ‘V’ sign = The Voice, lol!. Doing this helps me to work out where a song sits vocally for me, particularly when songs are in male keys, which register to sing in, where to breathe, the dynamics of the song, projecting my voice and working on my tone i.e. making sure I don’t get nasally.

If there’s a certain part of the song that I am struggling with, I’ll apply a vocal exercise over that melodic line to iron out the problem and then slowly bring lyrics in.

The same way a musician practices their parts on their individual instrument, whether it be fingering, different sounds, or inversions, vocalists should also be learning more about their instrument.

3. Turn up to Sound Check – Mic Check: 1, 2, 3…

Early morning starts are not the easiest for the voice, so for me it’s imperative that my voice is awake and able to sing at service level when I rock up to sound-check… not whisper in sound-check and yell during P&W, lol.

Proper preparation = proper execution.

Sound-check/rehearsal allows me to set my in-ear levels. Endeavour to get a good in-ear mix of what I need i.e. what instruments/band, worship leaders and other vocalists. It’s really important to pay attention to the arrangements of the songs and to LISTEN to where the worship leaders want to go.

For those who use foldback monitors, always have a melodic instrument to pitch off in the foldback, either an acoustic guitar or piano, or both… not just all vocals.

Important Note – Since there is so much happening on the platform during soundcheck, there’s a tendency to have spillage into mics, in particular those standing in front of the drums or guitar amps.Solution? Keep the mic close to my mouth, not fifty feet away, lol, and keep my vocals solid (singing at service level, not yelling) – this in turn helps the FOH engineers.

(No-No: I try to avoid turning my pack up or singing louder because this will only cause me to push and thus strain my voice)

4. Worship Service

Move as a unit: Phrasing is really important. The KEY is listening and locking in, be careful not to over enunciate. Listen to the Rhythm of the song and look at the whole line/phrase and not just individual words.

Watch cut-offs – I tend to taper off at the end of phrases rather than end abruptly… big vowels create a rounder/nicer sound and takes away from lazy singing.

Note: You want to create a nice wall of sound which helps the FOH engineers and this in turn encourages the Church to sing… you can make a HUGE difference!

Breathing – Breathing at the end of the phrase before I start the next line eases me into the next phrase and allows for a smoother delivery. Breathing provides great support for my tones and most importantly helps me stay on pitch! A lot of singers make the mistake of breathing just before the line starts and usually find their voices cracking or straining unnecessarily. 
Controlled breathing is Important, the air comes out the same time as the note.

These are just some of the practical things that I’ve applied over the years, whether at home or on the road. I try my best not to allow frustration to kick in when I’m experiencing technical difficulties, or if someone is over-singing/louder than everyone else aka not blending, maybe the guitars are too loud, cymbals are making my eardrums bleed, lol… this can hinder me and take my focus off what I really need to be doing…worshipping!

Hope this has helped you and your Team in some way, shape or form. Praying you guys have the most amazing weekend.

Take Care,
Dee

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