Why do vocal exercises? Simply put, to get better. But what is better? In my opinion ... it's about having more control. More control over the voice, really any instrument in that matter, leads to more confidence and ability. I've taught many students over the years that warm up and practice with quick scales. There's absolutely nothing wrong with warming up and practicing to scales. In fact, it's a great tool for agility and landing on pitches quickly. However, focusing on the scale rather than the purpose of it, isn't exercising, it ends up falling into the category of, well, just running scales. Take any scale, and slow it down. Sing it painfully slow. Comically slow without the accompaniment of a piano, guitar or track. You will hear YOUR voice. All the imperfections in your voice stand out. Those imperfections are what you need to work on more than anything. While singing the scales very slowly, at first, you won't sound good. In fact, you'll probably think you sound terrible. Good! Now you're learning your voice! It can be difficult to reveal your voice in this way. No matter how much you've practiced and taken lessons, there's always an imperfection to be heard slowly sliding through scales and arpeggios. Don't let this set you back, don't look at it as a bad thing. This is the way to take your voice to the next level.
How many songs are sung slow? A lot of them. Especially the big power ballads so many of us enjoy singing. Powerful slow songs win competitions, draw a lot of emotion, and sometimes are just fun to show off. (we singers love showing off) Running your exercises slowly is more relative to those big long high notes we crave to sing. Work on your exercises slowly, and when you decide, "Hey! I think I'm ready for that Whitney song." You won't have to think about it or worry so much. Your voice will be more ready than ever!
Let your voice sound shaky, let it "flip" all over the place going through your bridges, let your voice breathe. Run your scales at different volume levels. Notice the different tones and sounds your voice creates. Change your air flow, try different amounts of air when you breathe in and exhale. Explore!!! And never forget, these are EXERCISES! This is not a performance! No one is judging your practice voice. No one. Except maybe yourself. Oh, and your vocal coach. But any good vocal coach needs to point out weaknesses that need improved as well as what you're doing well. Vocal coaches shouldn't be paid to be your "yes man. "
Last but not least, as I tell every single one of my students, everything takes time. If you've never done your scales in such a revealing and scary way, now is the time. If it frustrates you, stop, come back later. Warming up and practicing takes time. Some days more than other. Never rush it. But the cool truth is, you will notice big differences in just a couple weeks if you sit back and add this to your daily practice routine.
- Chris Keller