How To Warm Up*

*Without Actually Warming Up

Just in case this ISN'T you in the morning before your audition.

Just in case this ISN'T you in the morning before your audition.

In an ideal world, I have an hour before every audition to vocalize.  In an ideal world I went to bed in a cool yet humid room exactly eight hours before I woke up again.  In an ideal world the trains run on schedule, I have no bags under my eyes, and every single performance is as great from the outside as it is inside my head. 

We do not live in an ideal world. 

This post applies to the singers among you.  Not just those who "sing first, dance second," but anyone who's ever had to carry a tune while auditioning for a show.  Obviously our voices operate at their best when we are at our best.  But what about when we're not?  You can't postpone your audition because you're catching your roommate's cold, or because the bar got slammed and you couldn't leave till 2:00 AM, or because your alarm didn't wake you up and you have 30 minutes to get to Pearl. 

In the real world auditions happen early.  We oversleep, the trains run late, and we don't have time to do a proper vocal warm-up.  So here's my foolproof method for sounding like I warmed up even when I didn't.  

Prequel to Step One:  Don't get sick.  If you feel like you're starting to get sick, stop everything and read my post, How Not To Get Sick.  All done?  Okay.  Let's assume you're not sick.  

1.  Warm Up The Day Before.

Schedule some time the day before your audition to really warm up.  Schedule a voice lesson, if you can afford one.  My voice always sounds better if I've sung the day before.  I think this has something to do with staying in good vocal shape.  Your voice is like, "Oh this?  We did this yesterday.  I got it."  In fact, sometimes I sound better having sung the day before than I do trying to squeeze in the same warmup at 8:30 in the morning.  My voice does not want to belt E's or hit high C's at that hour no matter how gently I coax it, and my voice carries that resentment throughout the day.  But if I do a full session the day prior, then do a few vocal slides the day of, I'm good to go.   Try it. 

2.  Utilize Your Commute.

One of the advantages to living in New York City is that you can sound as crazy as you want, and you probably still won't be the craziest person on the train.  However, I don't advocate a full vocal warmup on the subway platform.  It's annoying.  Instead, GENTLY warm up your voice during your walk to the train and while waiting for it to show.  Start with deep inhales and slow exhales as you walk.  Connect to your breath.  Feel your diaphragm.  Add a silent lip trill on the same breath pattern, then a vocalized lip trill.  Slide up gently up and down your range, working within a few notes of your speaking voice.  Then continue to touch sound, checking for tension, however you want.  By the time you get to the train, practice head and chest voice as the train enters and leaves the station.  Yes, there does come a point where you need to utilize volume, but remember to be gentle with your voice.  Don't push just because you're late/anxious/it's early.  

3.  Eat a cheeseburger.

Wait, what?  

I am not kidding.  This is not a game.  If you haven't warmed up and you need to be on your game-- like, Elphaba on your game-- eat something greasy.  Eating a sausage, egg and cheese is cheaper and easier than renting a warm-up room.  No time to stop at a deli?   Grab a sack of potato chips from somewhere.  (Not Pearl.  They only have healthy options.  I have complained about this.)  

Of course it's terrible for you, and of course you shouldn't do it every day, but for now, fuck it.  Aretha Franklin supposedly ate fried chicken before every performance and then walked through a manmade humidified tunnel to get from the stage to the dressing room.  (Or so I've heard.) It works.  Lubricate those chords!  Not just with water, with fats.  The greasy kind.  Ask yourself, "Will this cling to my arteries?  Then it will cling to my chords."  And wolf it.  Make it your cheat day.  You can go to the gym later.  

Happy auditioning!