5 Incredibly Helpful Vocal Warm-ups from the National Theatre

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

December 18, 2018

If you’ve ever performed any classical text like Shakespeare, Moliere, Ibsen, or Chekhov, you know that vocal support and resonance is key in making yourself understood onstage. And classical texts aren’t the only plays that need projection and articulation  — contemporary plays require actors with strong voices that carry over rows and rows of seats. These excellent warm-ups from the National Theatre take twenty-five minutes TOPS, and they improve your projection, articulation, and resonance by leaps and bounds. You can do them at home or at the theatre, anywhere you feel comfortable. What are you waiting for? Jump in!

#1 – Breathing

This first video demonstrates how to gently warm up your voice by focusing on breathing exercises, which is great if you have long-winded monologues or lines. Breathing exercises are an important part of warming up first because they increase your awareness of what your lungs are capable of doing later in the warm-up. They help extend the capacity of your voice and lungs.

#2 – Resonance

Think of your entire body as a speaker. Sure, the sound you make comes out of your mouth, but your body vibrates with sound when you speak  — or it should be able to. Opera singers train to allow their bodies to be resonating chambers so that their arias can be heard in the back seats. With actors, it’s the same way. It’s very important that the body is relaxed. If you carry a lot of tension, this stiffens the muscles and doesn’t allow sound to carry through the body. The humming exercises used in this video are used to develop the voice’s resonance.

#3 – Opening Up the Voice

The third video in this series focuses on warming up the voice and opening the voice up. This includes yawning and opening the ribs through stretching (so that the lungs can feel free to expand more).

#4 – Articulation

Articulation is essential with every single play. If the audience can’t understand us, they won’t care about our characters’ journeys. This video demonstrates how to work the muscles of the mouth so that the tongue feels strong and dextrous, the jaw is relaxed and free of tension, and the lips are relaxed yet prepared to enunciate consonants like B and P. This video also explores the use of the soft palate.

Ashleigh Gardner received her M.A. in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies (with concentrations in Contemporary Film, Psychoanalytic Theory, and Gender Studies) and her B.A. in English Literature (with concentrations in Early American Literature, Victorian & Gothic Literature, and Feminisms), both from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright, a Shakespearean trained actor, a dramaturge, and a photographer.
Thumbnail: Photo by Ivana Cajina on Unsplash