Learn how this simple technique can get your voice ready for action
In the fitness world, dynamic warmups (where the body is in constant motion) have been shown to be very effective in comparison to static warmups (where the body stays in place). This article will explore why siren singing is of the quickest, most effective vocal exercises for before and after a performance or presentation.
Sound The Alarm!
One of the best dynamic exercises for the voice is the siren (aka glissando, pitch slide or slur), where you gently sweep your voice up and down through its entire range. Performing sirens with lip or tongue trills, vowel sounds, etc. is arguably more effective than singing scales, since the larynx is always in motion as opposed to the static movement involved in typical scale singing.
Stretch those cords
Sirens are a great way to activate the muscles attached to the larynx (aka „voice box“) and the vocal folds (aka „vocal cords“), causing the folds to gently stretch and retract, depending on how high or low the pitch. Singing full-range scales are particularly good as a vocal warmup before a show, comparable to light jogging at the beginning of a sprint session or long-distance run.
Consider the bicep curl exercise: when you bend your arm, the bicep contracts in a constant, uninterrupted motion. One would never bend the arm by starting and stopping until the movement is complete, right? That’s pretty much exactly what happens when you sing scales; you’re constantly stopping and starting the movement of your larynx to hit the notes in the scale. This is, of course, great for training pitch accuracy (aka intonation), but for purely working out those vocal muscles it’s not quite as effective as the constant movement involved in singing sirens.
A smooth transition
Sirens are also an excellent way to smooth out the transitions between your head and chest voice, promoting greater vocal control. Although there are many different ways to smooth out the break between registers, one of my favorite tricks involves „breathing through the break.“ When you sing a siren and come to your vocal breakpoint, try releasing slightly more air, as opposed to adding more breath support.
Also, try to focus the energy into your sinus cavity instead of your throat, which slightly releases the tension in your larynx. Finally, try leaving the tongue as flat as possible (depending on the vowel sound you’re vocalizing) by keeping the tip of your tongue toward the front of your teeth, not drawn back into your mouth like the majority of people normally would.
Another effective technique is to sing the letters „ng“ (the word „sing“, for example). Try singing sirens softly at first, then gradually increase the volume as you go along. You can also use siren-singing as a great exercise to practice dynamics (transition from soft to loud), as well as tone color (from a dark, „classical“ sound to a bright, „pop“ sound) and tone density (from breathy to clear).
Singing sirens are also great as a cool down exercise, similar to stretching after a workout. Performing a series of „mini-sirens“ over a limited interval range (3rds or 5ths) and at a lower volume slightly stretches and relaxes the vocal folds, allowing for better recovery after heavy vocal use. Many vocalists perform these exercises using a tube or a thick straw to vocalize into a water-filled bottle or tall cup, part of the popular and highly effective “Lax Vox” technique. (note: add link to lax Vox site!)
All about efficiency
The siren is my go-to warmup and cool down exercise for the voice. It can be done anywhere, at any volume, and is a great tool for increasing your vocal range without unnecessary strain. Add this exercise to your vocal arsenal and reap the benefits!