Warm up exercises for students of Music
For all of us who are learning music, one important goal is to achieve mastery or get closer "shruthi shuddham" (Pitch accuracy) and also develop a good voice culture. Therefore, it is imperative that one must focus on practising certain vocal exercises, everyday for at-least half an hour, in order to achieve this. Stability in voice, pitch perfection, improved vocal range, better sound quality, improved breath control - are all some of the things that result from good voice culture.
Below I shall list down certain exercises that can be practiced regularly. These exercises include breathing exercises as well as exercises for the voice. Practicing these have personally helped me attain a good voice culture.
A. Pranayam (Breathing exercise) - This exercise is something most of you will be aware of. It involves simple breathing in and out through the nostrils. Prana by itself means life (essential for functioning of the body) and aayama means "lengthen". So this exercise helps in improving not only general well being but also our breath control and lung capacity. There are different kinds of Pranayam exercises. One is just simple breath in and breath out as slowly as you can focussing on the breathing. While doing this, also try and hold your breath for a couple of seconds before letting it out. This improves lung capacity. Alternate nostril breathing is another easy Pranayam exercise. Breathe in through one nostril while keeping the other closed, then breathe out through the other nostril while keeping the first nostril closed. Doing this on a regular basis for at-least 15 minutes everyday is beneficial.
B. Note sustain - This exercise is helpful in improving pitch accuracy, range and also our lung capacity. Take each note from the lower octave to the higher octave (start with notes that you can comfortably sing at first, eg. start with the lower octave P or D and go upto the higher octave) and sing them for as long as you can. Before starting each note make sure to take a long breath. Sustain the note for about 6 seconds first and try to increase the number of seconds each time you try it. This can be done in any raga of your choice.
C. Akaaram Practice - Akaar, eekar, ookar or mmkar are singing the notes as AA, EE, OO or MM without actually saying the notes. For students of Carnatic Music, the first basic lessons like the sarali, janta varisais, alankaarams, Dhatu varisais etc. can be taken and akaara practice can be done for each of these varisais in different speeds. You can start off by singing it slowly and then aim to sing at higher speeds. This becomes very important in aiding to sing fast sangathis in krithis, Raga alaapanas and also Thanam.
Another important exercise for students who have learnt upto varnams is to also practice the varnams in aakaram. These exercises can be done for 15 minutes everyday too.
D. Practice singing in different octaves - This exercise is particularly useful to improve your vocal range. Try practicing first, the basic exercises (Sarali, Janta etc) in the lower octaves and higher octaves instead of the middle octave. Once you are able to do the basic exercises, gradually move onto singing geethams, Varnams or even krithis in different octaves to achieve ease of traversing between the three ranges with ease. A singer with a good vocal range must be able to sing from the lower octave (mandra sthayi) Sa to the higher octave(thara sthayi) Sa.
The above mentioned exercises are just a few basic ones but nonetheless important and must be practiced in addition to the regular practice that is done. With regular practice, one can achieve good voice culture.It is important to understand that our voice is also a muscle and just like how a muscle needs to be worked upon, stretched and conditioned to keep it agile and flexible (and gyms are a classic example), our voice needs to be kept in practice too. The exercises mentioned are therefore a gym for your voice!