You are a Vocal Athlete; just ask the internet!
Over the past decade or two, this concept of a vocal athlete has become increasingly mainstream for many reasons. There are many ways in which being a singer, and especially training to be a singer, is similar to being a baseball player, football player, or any other athlete. There are, unfortunately, also many ways where this comparison falls short, which can lead singers down the wrong path. So prevalent is the concept of a vocal athlete that even some voice teachers can be led astray.
Over the next few weeks, we will look at precisely what or who is a vocal athlete, what comparisons between singing and sports we can draw, and what differences exist between training and living as an athlete and as a singer.
A Vocal Athlete is someone who:
A Vocal Athlete is Not someone who:
Or in other words, a vocal athlete is someone highly motivated to develop or maintain their singing over the long term.
The most apparent of all similarities is the warm-up. Athletes do a series of light movements and stretches, progressing to increasingly challenging activities to increase blood flow to muscles and help prevent injury. Similarly, if you have done any formal singing in lessons or choir, you undoubtedly started with some form of light phonation, progressing to longer, louder, and higher patterns. The idea is the same, to increase blood flow to the muscles and to help prevent injury.
Some popular warm-up exercises include descending and or ascending five-tone scales, sirens, triads, octaves, and some cute little tunes. These might be hummed, lip trilled, tongue trilled, sung on vowels, solfège, or words. Typically, you’ll start somewhere in the lower middle part of your range and progress downwards before working to the top of your range. All of this follows the same model as if you were warming up to run. Great! Check Mark! We are being good athletes! Maybe…
Let’s double check this one. Starting with the base assumptions:
Now you are probably asking two questions right now: Why are we doing vocal warmups then? And should I just start singing then?
What is really interesting about warm-ups is that they manage to at least partially achieve a secondary purpose, even if the intention is wrong. Vocal warm-ups are inherently basic skill acquisition exercises. You are singing patterns, scales, and intervals in different parts of your range. This is very important no matter how experienced you are. The problem is if your intention is to warm up, you are likely not as focused on accuracy as you would be if the goal were to sing that interval perfectly.
As for whether you should just start singing, it depends… Your vocal folds are warm and loose, and your adductor and abductor muscles are warm and loose. Still, the singing mechanism is complex and affected heavily by your health, hydration, food intake, exercise, hormones, the weather, the time of day, and the alignment of mercury. Well, maybe not the alignment of mercury; Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson would undoubtedly tell us that mercury has nothing to do with it. But the rest of that list and more does come into play. So checking in with your voice can prove beneficial for understanding how it will respond; many voice scientists recommend just a few (3 or 4) light sirens to get your day started.
A Vocal Athlete Warm-Up? Probably Not!
While it is convenient to think about the vocal instrument and the bigger muscles of your body the same way, they are fundamentally different. Do a few sirens and use that time for more structured skill development. But do remember that while mercury isn’t going to be affecting your voice just about everything else will.
As always, please note this article is to be informative and not to provide medical advice; individuals should consult with a medical professional if they are concerned or think they might have a vocal injury. Prevention is the best medicine. There is no replacement for lessons with a professional voice teacher.
Our goal at VoSci is to provide the most accurate and up to date information available on the internet for singers and teachers. While we strive for perfection, there is a lot of misinformation available and new information that becomes available every day. If you find information on this page or any page on VoSci that you believe is out of date please let us know using our contact form so we can look into it.