Kristina Olsen, a singer and songwriter I had a chance to spend some time with way back when, described musicians and singers as “small muscle athletes”. She pointed out that practicing not only makes you proficient, it also gets these muscles in shape. If you play an instrument like a guitar, your strengthening fingers can hold a string down with less and less effort, freeing energy up for doing more and more intricate things. If you sing, your strengthening diaphragm and vocal chords and lips and cheeks not only give you more range and sound quality, you’re also able to sing well longer.
Let’s say I want to
run a marathon sing in a long concert. I’m not going to run 26 miles sing for two hours the first day. Not only would I fail, but I’d probably hurt myself and not be able to run sing for a few days. I need to start slowly and build up to it with regular workouts rehearsals. A typical workout rehearsal would start with a session of stretching warm-ups (wacky ones if you sing with the Windward Choral Society) and loosening up the foundation of my running singing, which is my legs diaphragm. This would follow with stretching warming up all of the other parts of my body voice that I need to start my workout rehearsal in earnest.
See what I mean? Of course a singer has a different set of muscles to get in shape. With strength comes control, so practicing breathing with your diaphragm gives you a wider range of vocal power. Working up and down scales and singing intervals will improve your vocal chords’ ability to make a joyful noise and also your control of it. Making the goofy sounds and doing the goofy-looking things with your face will strengthen and tone that final piece of the instrument where the notes meet the words and music happens.
And of course, once you’re all
stretched warmed up, it’s time to run like the wind sing like an angel.