Hmmm? – Proper Humming Techniques to Warm Up Your Professional Voice

Properly warming up your voice is one of the most important thing you can do for your professional pipes.

One easy and effective way of warming up your vocals is humming. Humming may seem like a simple exercise, however there is a correct and incorrect way to perform this most basic of warm ups.

So how do you properly “hum”?

  • Place the tip of your tongue at the back of your bottom row of teeth, open your mouth and repeat the sound ‘Hee’.
  • Relax your jaw and tongue, and close your mouth,
  • Repeat the sounds ‘NNNNnnnnnnn’ & ‘MMMmmmmmmm’, alternating until  you feel a deeper tone and  slight vibration through your tongue, teeth and nose.


One of the most common mistakes made when humming is misplacing your vocal positioning and humming too low on your register via your throat.  Performing this exercise too low can cause tension in your vocals and is not the correct way to sing for “true resonance”.

Try this solution from

Try asking a question– “Hmmm?”. As your pitch gets higher, you’ll feel the vibrations of the “hmm” move upwards. They’ll pass the nose, the eyes, and move towards the top of the head. This resonance is very similar to and echo – and the different pitches reverberate inside our skulls differently!

Now think it over and say “Hmmm…”

Let your pitch move downwards. Feel the vibrating sensations of sound move down toward the chest. You just did a super-simple vocal warmup!

Humming is such an important vocal exercise to master because humming focuses on pitch rather than phrasing or enunciation.



Pass the Hot Sauce…Actually, Don’t

You may love the heat, but the heat in your food does NOT love your vocal chords. Consuming too many spicy foods or foods that are too hot can not only hurt your same-day performance, but possibly long term damage to your throat and vocals.

So how spicy is the your food? Here is a good guide:

The Scoville Scale

In 1912 a chemists by the name of Wilbur Scoville developed a method to measure the heat level of chile peppers–dubbed the “Scoville Organoleptic Test”.  To measure the heat level of  chiles, Scoville blended pure ground Chiles with sugar-water and then employed a panel who then sipped the solution in increasingly diluted concentrations until the mixture no longer burned their mouths.

A number was then assigned to each chile pepper based on how much it needed to be diluted before they could no longer taste (feel) the heat.
The level of heat is measured in multiples of 100 “Scoville” units.


So what is the hottest registered substance on Scoville’s Scale? Pure Capsaicin. This deathly hot substance comes in between 15,000,000 and 16,000,000 Scoville Units.

So, needless to say, avoid spicy food before a speaking or singing engagement. The irritation they will cause your throat will not only ruin your night, but the longer term effects resulting from possible acid reflux, which further irritates the esophagus.

Think a cough drop will help that irritated throat? Think again. Lozenges made from menthol, oil of eucalyptus or citrus can trigger acid reflux.

If you think you are experiencing complications or irritation from acid reflux, make an appointment with a specialist.

Recommended: The Colorado Voice Clinic

Christina Aguilera Vocal Warm Up (MTV)

See how one of the best voices in the world warms up her voice.



Follow The Professional Voice Blog for tips from leading entertainment industry surgeons on how to properly warm up, maintain, and treat your professional voice.

Got Milk? Why The Popular Beverage Can Ruin Your Performance

It’s a fairly popular beverage in recording studios and prior to shows, but that milk you may think is soothing your voice may actually be negatively effecting your performance.


Some Like it Hot

Drinking warm or even hot milk will produce a thick layer of phlegm that will hinder your ability to speak or sing clearly. The best choice is always water, which will clear your throat and avoid the thick phlegm layer that can hinder your singing voice.


The Quick Fix

If you’ve made the mistake of coating your throat with a warm glass of milk, gargle with this delightful mixture:

  •  1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • One cup warm water

Sip a small amount and gargle at a high pitch, which cause your vocal cords to contract and rise closer to where you are gargling.

Do this several times until you feel that your throat is no longer coated.

Milk is not always the best option for singers...Never before a show!

Milk is not always the best option for singers…Never before a show!

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Hypnotised patient sings through throat surgery to protect her vocal chords

From The Independent:

A professional singer, who was hypnotised, has sung through an operation to remove a tumour from her throat in order to help surgeons avoid damaging her vocal chords.

Alama Kanté, a Guinean singer, who is based in France, was given a local anaesthetic and was hypnotised ahead of the operation at the Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil near Paris.

Kanté had feared that her vocal chords would be damaged during the tricky operation to remove a parathyroid gland tumour from her throat.

The surgeon had warned her that a single slip of the scalpel could have destroyed her singing voice.

In a ‘world first’ the surgeon suggested that she sing at critical moments during the procedure to ensure that the operation “was going well”.

According to Le Figaro, Ms Kanté underwent the operation without the usual general anaesthetic, a process that Professor Gilles Dhonneur, head of the anaesthesia at the hospital, said would lead to “intolerable pain” without the use of hypnosis.

According to The Times, Ms Kanté sang two songs from her forthcoming album during the operation.

“She went into a sort of trance when she listened to the words of the hypnotist. She went a long way away, to Africa. And then she began to sing. It was incredible, Professor Dhonneur told The Times.

“It was certainly a world first,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has ever piloted an operation using the voice before.”

“Because she was singing during the critical moments, we could be sure that the operation was going well”, he added.

The operation, which took place in April, but the details of which were revealed over the weekend, involved Kanté letting the hypnotist “guide” her on a journey to Senegal.

According to The Times when Kanté was being injected with the anaesthetic her hypnotist told her she had been bitten by a mosquito in order to maintain the illusion.

The singer has since made a full recovery.


Maintaining Vocal Health – Warming Up Your Voice & Full Body Exercises and Health Tips

There is more to a proper vocal warm up than simply warming up your voice. Be conscious of your entire body – this is extremely important to not just your vocal performance, but your long term vocal health.

Here are some tips for how to utilize full body tactics to properly warm up your vocals before a singing or speaking engagement:


In order to have the best air flow and therefore the best sound, you need to have good posture (even when sitting down). A good tip for maintaining good posture is to imagine a string connecting from the top of your head to the tip of your tailbone – like a puppet. Keep that string pulled tight and straight.

Keep your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart and distribute your weight equally on both legs. Keep your head up and shoulders back – every part of your body should be in the same line.

If sitting, follow the same recommendations as you would for standing, but also keep your back off the chair, sitting toward the edge of your seat.


Most people don’t realize it, but they have developed the bad habit of only using the top of the lungs when breathing, which doesn’t utilize the diaphragm. Not employing the diaphragm also prohibits you from using the full power of your voice.

If you are tense at all while breathing, it will resound in the muscles of your vocal folds. Breathe normally, but be conscious of keeping your shoulders low and your chest relaxed. Concentrate on staying loose throughout your core.

Try placing a hand on your stomach to remind yourself that that’s the part that should be moving up and down and NOT your chest and shoulders. Hold an “s” sound (like a hiss) when you exhale to control the amount of air that you can expel.


Tension held in your jaw will keep you from your best sound. Your jaw is the instrument your voice comes out of, so you have to take care of it.

Massage your checks with the heel of each hand. Push in and down right below your cheekbone and rotate in a clockwise motion. Your jaw should open without you even thinking about it and be forced to relax. Repeat this exercise several times.


Hydrate with warm liquids, not cold. Ice cold water will adversely clam up your vocal folds.


Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which constrict your throat and keep you from sounding your best


Doing scales warms up your voice slowly, extending it to its top and bottom ranges.

Be sure to maintain proper breathing techniques which will make it easier to hit notes on both ends of the register.

Go at a steady pace – you will hurt your voice if you start off too low or too high, forcing it to extremes it is not properly warmed up for.


Trills help relax the lips and tongue, engage your breathing, and eliminate tension.

For lip trills, simply create a raspberry sound by loosely placing your lips together.

Experiment with different consonant sounds, like “h” and “b.”

Go slowly up and down your range, but don’t do anything that’s uncomfortable or hard to maintain.

For tongue trills, think of the Spanish “r.” Place your tongue behind your upper teeth and exhale strongly. Hold the sound and air steady, varying the pitch while trilling.

Ten of the Easiest Ways to Maintain Your Professional Voice

Ten of the Easiest Ways to Maintain Your Professional Voice

1. Drink Water— Staying hydrated is key to the health of your professional voice. Replace soda, coffee, or carbonated beverages with water and void alcohol and caffeine.

Your vocal cords vibrate very fast, and having a proper water balance helps keep them lubricated.

Important note: Foods containing large amounts of water are excellent hydration-conscious snacks, including apples, pears, watermelon, peaches, melons, grapes, plums, bell peppers and applesauce.

2. Give Your Voice a Break — Allow yourself several “vocal naps” every day, especially during periods of extended use (tour, regularly scheduled appearances, speaking engagements, conventions, etc…).

3. Don’t Smoke — No brainer, right? Smoking raises the risk of throat cancer tremendously, and inhaling smoke first or even secondhand smoke can irritate the vocal cords and cause long term damage.

4. Speak at Normal Volumes — Avoid yelling or screaming—even whispering can be hazardous to your voice. If your throat feels dry or tired, or your voice is getting hoarse, reduce your voice use—don’t think whispering will help…this will actually cause more harm than good.

The hoarseness is a warning sign that your vocal cords are irritated.

5. Rest Your Muscles —Keep your throat and neck muscles relaxed while speaking or performing— even when singing high and low end notes.

Some singers have a habit of tilting their heads up when singing high notes and down when singing low notes. This puts strain on your vocals and can cause long term damage to both your voice and supporting muscle structures.


6. Your Voice is Never Off the Clock — Pay attention to how you speak every day, especially if you are a singer. Be sure to maintain your proper breathing and breath-flow when you are speaking in everyday life.

7. Don’t Clear Your Throat — When you clear your throat, it’s like slamming your vocal cords together. Doing it too much can injure them and make you hoarse—take a sip of water or swallow and avoid the urge to clear your throat.

A constant feeling that you need to clear your throat may mean more serious problems such as acid reflux disease, or allergy and sinus conditions. Call your doctor!

8. Sleep — Sleep is the best way to maintain your voice and improve your long and short term vocal health. If you sleep with a fan in your room—point it away from your face and be sure to maintain temperature and humidity in your bedroom. A dry or chilly environment when sleeping can reverse all that healthy rest.

9. Amplification —When you can, use amplification when speaking so you don’t have to speak loudly. Microphones exist for a reason…use them!

10. Allergy Control — Don’t let those allergies get out of control. Eat a healthy diet and be sure to get serious allergy issues checked out by your doctor, as they may indicate more serious problems going on with your voice.


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