Audition and Warming Up

Tis the season for audition. Lots of audition. More auditions than you thought possible. So let’s talk about warming up and staying warm as you literally pound the pavement running between Pearl, Ripley, Equity, and Nola. Here are some tips to help you not be that person loudly warming up in the holding room.

All of these tips should be practiced at home when you’re able to sing full out so you get a handle on the tool and how it impacts your voice. Everyone is different, so something that works for one person might not work for another. Better yet, pay a visit to your voice teacher or voice therapist and ask their thoughts on how you can stay warmed up!

Strategies for Warming Up
Generally speaking, the best strategy is to try and warm up early in the day if you can and then try and keep your voice warm as the day goes. So if you’re headed to a dance call, warm your voice up beforehand in case you’re asked to sing. Then you can use one of these tips below to touch base with your voice before singing. If you’re headed to wait in line at 5:00am, as soon as there’s a moment to sneak away into a practice room to warm up, I would do it. There’s typically some time between when you're let in the building and get on the list, and when they start to call the list or when they make the "are we seeing non-union today" call. This is typically a good time to get away for 15 minutes to warm up. Then you can use these tools to stay warm as the day passes.

I will also say that if you’re in a routine of warming up your voice and doing technique work often, then you’ll warm up faster. If you only warm up and sing once or twice a month, it’s gonna be slow going when you need to be warm fast. Make it a point to warm your voice up and sing through some rep at least a few times a week so that your voice stays conditioned.

And now for some ideas on how to stay warm as you sit there patiently waiting…and waiting…

The Belt Box
You probably know about the Belt Box. It’s a worthwhile investment if you want to be singing full out with articulation. It’s great to use at home to not disturb neighbors or roommates and it’s portable and easy to carry to auditions. The newer model comes with a strap so you can use it hands free. It’s a nifty invention for sure.

The caveat to the Belt Box is that some people find that they hold back when they sing into it. I recommend practicing with the Belt Box when you’re able to sing full out so that you can get used to what it feels like to really sing and then put the mask on. You’ll notice some back pressure in your mouth and throat and sometimes just the muffled sound throws people enough that they start to modify or hold back. If you can master the small learning curve, it’s a good investment and does a great job muffling the sound.


Straw Phonation
The downside of the Belt Box is that it’s not very inconspicuous. It’s somewhat cumbersome. If you’re looking for something a little less obvious, try some straw phonation. You can use a straw of any size to sing into for a muffled, less obvious way of warming up. Put the straw in your lips with no space for air to leak and sing. Be sure no air is escaping from your nose or from around your lips. With this particular tool you want all the sound out the straw for maximum impact. The smaller the diameter of the straw, the bigger the boost you get from the vocal folds, and the more muffled the sound becomes on the outside. I should also mention that the smaller the diameter of the straw, the more challenging it can be to sing into it, so practice with different size straws until you find your perfect fit.

You can’t use articulation in the straw, but you can move your tongue to make different vowel sounds. You can also simply glide up and down in your range to stay warm. If you’ve already done a proper warm up, this is a great way to stay warm and connected. There are all sorts of reasons why this is effective for your voice, but it tends to help the vocal folds become less pressed and close more efficiently. (Have more questions about how it works?? Comment below with any questions and I'll be sure and answer them!) However, you should practice this at home first and make sure you get a sense of what your voice feels like after using the straw so you know what to expect.


Check out this video below from my friend Ingo Titze about straw phonation.

Blowing Bubbles
Blowing bubbles is another option that can be just as effective as small straw phonation (and sometimes even more effective for some people-remember, everyone is different!). Put a straw into your water bottle and blow bubbles while vocalizing. Just like the prior straw phonation, you can’t articulate, but could move your tongue a bit for some vowel shifts if you want. You also want to make sure all the air and sound is coming out the straw. You can sing phrases of songs while blowing bubbles, or just slide up and down. It’s a little less quiet than the straw by itself because of the bubbles rattling around, but it’s still super effective and somewhat inconspicuous. Just like plain straw phonation, there are all sorts of reasons why this is effective, but it mainly helps the vocal folds close more effectively. It also adds a breath element with being able to see the impact of the breath in the form of bubbles.

I keep a straw in my water bottle at all times and every time I grab a sip, I blow some bubbles and vocalize. It allows my voice to stay unpressed throughout the day and keeps my voice warm as I go from lesson, to lesson, to lesson.


Other Ideas
If you don’t have a BeltBox or a straw handy, there are the more obvious things you can do that are a bit more noisy and might be annoying to your fellow actors, but they are worth mentioning. They can be handy in a pinch.

You can do a lip trill, raspberry, or tongue trill. To lip trill, you put your lips out like a pucker and blow air. A raspberry has your tongue out over your bottom lip and then you blow air. A tongue trill is like rolling your r’s.

You can vocalize on a fricative sounds like V, Z, Th, Zh, etc.

You can vocalize on a nasal consonant like an N, M, NG, or GN.

You can use any of these sounds to sing an exercise, a phrase of a song, or just a siren or pitch glide. They will all muffle you to some degree, but aren’t as ideal as the straw or belt box when it comes to trying to be quiet.

And never underestimate the benefit of a good physical stretch. Be sure you're standing up often and stretching. You want your body to be awake and connected in addition to your voice. Using any of these quieter tools as you stretch or as you walk down the hallways is a good idea to connect the voice to the body to the breath.

Questions about any of this?? Have an idea yourself?? Comment below and let me know. And most of all, happy singing and auditioning!