What the WHAT?! “reciprocal innervation and vocal warm ups”…??? Seriously? Don’t worry! Let me explain…
I have a student who is dancer and also a licensed massage therapist. One day, during a lesson, I was explaining to her my personal warm up routine. I follow the basic method of Vocal Power (you can read more about the fabulous technique of Vocal Power here). I was telling her that I realized when I warm up on the higher end of my vocal range and in head voice first (both of those are NOT my strength) my chest voice AND mix voice are much clearer and stronger.
Wait! What was that again? WHEN I WARM UP MY UPPER RANGE AND USE HEAD VOICE FIRST, MY CHEST VOICE AND MIX ARE CLEARER AND STRONGER…
She said, “oh! that is likely because of reciprocal innervation!” I’m sorry, WHAT?
Thanks to my Little Man for demonstrating what I felt! LOL!
That’s when I learned what reciprocal innervation is! Here is the wikipedia definition: reciprocal innervation “Reciprocal innervation describes skeletal muscles as existing in antagonistic pairs, with contraction of one muscle producing forces opposite to those generated by contraction of the other. For example, in the human arm, the triceps acts to extend the lower arm outward while the biceps acts to flex the lower arm inward. To reach optimum efficiency, contraction of opposing muscles must be inhibited while muscles with the desired action are excited. This reciprocal innervation occurs so that the contraction of a muscle results in the simultaneous relaxation of its corresponding antagonist.”
Ok, let’s break this down…
First and foremost, if you don’t have a warm up routine, stop what you are doing and write that down on the top of your to do list. You absolutely must warm up your voice before you sing. You cannot replace your voice. You MUST take good care of your body and your voice. This not only entails regular study with a trusted voice teacher, lots and lots of water (that’s a post for another day!) but some type of cardio work out and most importantly, your personal warm up. In the case of reciprocal innervation, I found that by truly working and warming up an area of my voice that I don’t frequently use, for me the highs and head voice, it improved my overall voice and sound and literally is strengthening it! It gives the lower part of my voice the chance to relax and stretch in a way it never has.
My voice type is low, breathy and slightly raspy. Yup, I am an alto to the core. I was CONSTANTLY having to be extra careful, and always had concern for the longevity of my voice on any given day. Now, that I have found my personal vocal warm up routine, I am in “good voice” most of the time! Even with lots of work and lots of students and not enough sleep! I seriously would never have dreamed my voice would be better now than in my 20s…but it is. And, it’s all due to regular, serious study and the perfect warm up routine.
In my work with voice students, we work to find the perfect vocal warm up to bring out their best sound and we also take into consideration the type of work they are doing. Are they in a musical theatre show where you are singing full out and speaking a lot of lines? Are they singing in a band in a lounge until all hours with a loud sound system behind them? Maybe, it’s a recording session they are preparing for. Each of these situations require not only a proper warm up but a specific type of warm up. Have you found your perfect warm up? I’d love to hear what that is!
Thanks for hanging out with me today! Now go get your warm up figured out! And, hey! If you’d like a little help with that, I am happy to Skype a lesson with you! 🙂 See you soon!