Vocal Preparations Before Your On-Stage Performance

For new vocal students and seasoned singers alike, vocal preparations are among the essential pre-performance rituals. 


Vocal preparation for performance might not be very straightforward if you’re a new singer, and some exercises may seem silly. But rest assured that some tried-and-true warm-up methods have been practiced for generations by lounge crooners, Broadway stars, and pop singers alike. 


But, vocal preparations before a performance should also include some physical and mental exercises. Nailing a performance doesn’t just challenge your vocal muscles, but it also demands your brain’s full attention and your body’s participation. 


The following guide will get your vocal cords, mind, and body ready for the performance of a lifetime!

Vocal Warm-Ups

Vocal warm-ups acclimate your vocal cords, mouth, and respiratory system to singing. Especially if you haven’t sung at all on the day of your performance, warm-ups are critical to robust vocal tone, excellent pitch, and controlled breath. 


The following exercises are guaranteed to get your pipes ready for the stage. 

Lip Trills

Lip trill exercises prepare your respiratory system for singing and loosen your lips and teeth.


To perform a lip trill:


  1. Begin playing scales that increase by a half step each time. Start to the low-to-medium end of your range, but not at the bottom. 
  2. Instead of singing, take deep breaths and allow the air to escape through your loose lips as you exhale, which will cause your lips to buzz.
  3. Try your best to match the scale pitches, but you don’t have to hit every note. You can expect some slurring, but just go with the flow and warm up slowly. 

Trill along to scales up and down your range a few times, and pay special attention to your breathing. Take deep breaths through your nose, and control the air escaping during your exhale. It may help to rest your hand on your diaphragm during this exercise. 


Once your lips and respiratory system are ready for actual vocalization, move on to scale exercises. You can play the same scales that you did in the lip trill exercise, but this time choose a syllable to sing during each note. Some popular syllables include:


  • Ooo sounds
  • Eee sounds
  • Ah sounds
  • A “mi, meh, mah, moh, moo” series


You can change up the syllables throughout the exercise. Like the lip trills, sing a few scales up and down your range, stretching your range a little bit. Remember to remain focused on your breathing, and rest a hand on your diaphragm to monitor your breath as necessary. 

Pitch Matching

Once you’ve completed some scales, play a few (harmonious) intervals in each key. Don’t exceed three to four notes per interval. Remember not to skip the minor keys. Play a series of notes, just listening to them. 


Then, match the pitches played to exercise your note visualization. Thinking of the note in your head right before singing it will help you stay on pitch, and pitch-matching exercises will help acclimate your brain to this thought process before a performance. 

Pitch Gliding

Pitch gliding doesn’t require a pitch pipe, piano, or any other exercise instrument. To perform a pitch glide, all you need to do is vocalize at the top of your range in an airy voice, gliding down and up the scale without worrying about slurring. 


It’s vital to glide throughout your entire range. Don’t worry about hitting the perfect pitch. This exercise helps you transition from the top of your range to the bottom during your performance (also known as moving from your chest voice to your head voice).

Physical and Mental Preparation

While vocal and breathing exercises are critical, don’t forget that singing is a full-body exercise. You will likely stand or move around during your performance, so your body needs to be ready for (potentially prolonged) movement. 


Plus, all of the preparation that went into perfecting your piece would go to waste if you weren’t actively using your brain on stage. Mental prep is just as important as both vocal and physical preparation.


Stretching is beneficial for various reasons, but stretching your body before singing can help alleviate pre-show jitters and prepare your body for the physical toll of singing. 


If you’ve been taking vocal lessons for any amount of time, you know that breath control is one of the essential factors in excellent singing. All your breath control is centered in your core, so you don’t want this area to be tense during your performance. 


Do a few twists, some toe-touches, and even consider a low-intensity cobra pose. Loosen up, and prepare to wow your audience. 

Positive Self-Talk

The moments before a performance can be nerve-wracking, but remember that no vocalist is perfect. Instead of succumbing to perfectionism, replace those thoughts with positive self-talk. 

Adopt a mantra – or a few! – before the show and repeat them to yourself in the lead-up to your performance. Some examples include:


  1. “I’ve practiced hard. I can do this!”
  2. “I know my pieces like the back of my hand.”
  3. “Everyone in the audience is rooting for me, and I’ll succeed!”

Anytime you’re tempted by thoughts of self-doubt, repeat your mantra(s) to yourself. Say them out loud if you need to. 

First Words/Notes Review

Right before you go on stage, after you’ve repeated your positive self-talk mantra to yourself at least a few times, begin another mental exercise:


Hear your piece’s first words and notes in your head as many times as you can right before your performance. A common side effect of stage fright is forgetting your first words or notes. But if you nail the first two phrases, you’ll hit the ground running, and the rest of the song will come to you as naturally as breathing.


As you go on stage, you’ll feel confident that you’ll nail your entrance, which is one of the keys to an excellent performance. 


Nail Your Vocal Preparation for Performance

Your vocal preparation for performance day is integral to your success on stage. Smart singers focus on three key areas during their warm-up:


  1. Their vocals (including breathing, tone, and lip flexibility)
  2. Their body (particularly their core)
  3. Their mind


Singing is truly a full-body experience, and anyone who tells you otherwise probably can’t handle even one vocal rehearsal. Even if your performance isn’t perfect, you should take pride in your vocal, physical, and mental commitment to your piece. 


Break a leg!