Miller School Researchers Study Ideal Vocal Warm-up Time for Singers

It takes only minutes of vocal warm-up for classical singers to perceive vocal ease prior to practice, according to a recent study by University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Frost School of Music researchers published in the Journal of Voice.

“There is little research on singers’ perceptions of the benefits of warm-up and the ideal amount of time to do so. Yet, the amount of warm-up can be important for vocal health and quality,” said the study’s senior author, Adam Lloyd, SLP-D, CCC-SLP, M.M., assistant professor of otolaryngology and speech pathology at the Miller School. “Too much can cause fatigue or sores to form on the vocal folds, while not enough warm-up may lead to limited range and loudness capabilities or injury, similar to what would happen to an athlete who does not warm up before an event.

Dr. David Rosow with student Yashwanth Ramanujam.

“Our goal was to discover what amount of time of warm-up provided singers with greatest ease of usage.”

The researchers reported on a prospective cohort of nine Frost School of Music classical vocal performance majors to determine if specific warm-up durations of 0, 5, 10 or 15 minutes would change subjective and objective voice measures. The singers completed a modified Voice Range Profile and the Evaluation of the Ability to Sing Easily scale and blindly rated 10-second recorded audio clips. Four independent expert blinded listeners also rated the audio clips.

“We included several levels of randomization and blinding so that participants and raters would be less biased in their scoring. This strengthened the results of the study and improved reliability,” Dr. Lloyd said. “Professionals in the fields of voice pathology and vocal pedagogy acted as our blind raters, which again reduced the risk of bias and made the results more reliable.”

They found that vocally warming up has a self-perceived benefit for singers compared with not warming up at all. And 5 or 10 minutes of warm-up seems to be sufficient to begin a practice session. Participants did not perceive long warm-up routines to be more beneficial.

“It was no surprise that vocally warming up makes singing feel more comfortable. As vocal teachers, we always tell our students the importance of warming up the voice before practicing to make singing easier and avoid injury,” said the study’s first author, Frank W. Ragsdale, D.M.A., associate professor of music and chair of the Department of Vocal Performance at the Frost School of Music. “I found it interesting, however, that the 15-minute warm-up time did not make a difference in the self-perceived ease of singing over the 5- or 10-minute times. I think this finding will encourage students to warm up, knowing that as little as 5 to 10 minutes is sufficient.”

Future research should include a larger population of singers with different levels of education and singing genres, the authors wrote.

“One of the benefits of collaborative research is through the Frost School of Music, as well as the Department of Theatre Arts from the College of Arts and Sciences, we have access to student vocalists from a broad range of backgrounds: classical, jazz, contemporary, and musical theatre, to name a few. We have already learned from some of our other ongoing research that different musical training can affect the likelihood of vocal injury over time,” said study author David E. Rosow, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology and director of the Division of Laryngology and Voice at the Miller School. “We are constantly expanding this study and perhaps we will find that these groups respond differently to vocal warm-ups.”

Coauthors on the study are Judy O. Marchman, D.M.A.; Michelle M. Bretl, M.S., CCC-SLP; Jennylee Diaz, M.S.; Mursalin Anis, M.D.; Hang Zhang, M.S.; and Mario A. Landera, SLP-D, CCC-SLP.

Tags: Dr. Adam Lloyd, Dr. David Rosow, Frank W. Ragsdale, Journal of Voice, otolaryngology, speech pathology