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 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.
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!