What is a “Vocal Cool-Down?”
We have all heard about the vocal warm-up. It is likely we do it EVERY day or at least before we begin an intense singing session. We have our favorite warm-ups and feel the moment when our voices feel ready to REALLY sing. But what is a vocal cool-down? You’ve probably heard about it, but do you really know what it is?
I try to maintain a good workout routine complete with a warm-up and a cool-down and stretch portion. The cool-down prevents or at least alleviates future sore muscles and improves flexibility. So this got me thinking…why isn’t a vocal cool-down stressed in the vocalist world? The voice is a series of muscles working together, right? Well, here is the current low-down on the mysterious vocal-cool down.
What does current vocal research say?
There have been studies conducted on the benefits of the vocal cool-down. Their conclusion was that majority of singers had a positive self-perceptual difference when including a vocal cool-down. But quantifiable data…that wasn’t as significant. The thought is that there are too many other variables such as stress, vocal hygiene, reflux, etc. that differs from singer to singer to definitively state that vocal cool-downs work. The research is limited.
What exercises are considered vocal cool-downs? How long do I cool for?
Vocal exercises that are most popular in the cool-down category are straw phonation, humming, and “floaty /u/.” The idea is that the exercises bring the voice to a neutral state much like the singer’s normal, supported speaking voice. These exercises can be done in ascending and descending slides, triads, or sustained with multiple proceeding vowels on the same pitch. Other exercises include a short gentle vocal fry, lip trills, and easy slides into chest voice on the syllable /vae/.
Here are the exercises in more detail:
- Straw phonation
- Ascending and descending slides in full octaves and fifths
- Humming in thirds in your middle, most comfortable octave from about G4-G5 for sopranos (depending on your voice type)
- Hm-/i/, /a/, /o/, and /u/ on a single pitch and descending by half steps (start at about a C5 for sopranos)
- Sing triad /vae/ in modal register
- Sing five-note descending scale on a lofty /u/. Focus on keeping a forward resonant sound with easy phonation.
What else should I know about vocal cool-downs?
Complete the exercises in a medium-soft dynamic. Be careful you are actually cooling down your voice and not adding more stress. The cool-down can be anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on your vocal needs. Hydrate! Most importantly, listen to your body. The amazing and sometimes frustrating part of singing is that you live with your instrument 24/7. It needs you to treat it well and keep it healthy!
Give these exercises a try! I hope they help keep your voice even happier and healthier!
 Ragan, Kari. “Impact of Vocal Cool-down Exercises: A Subjective Study of Singers’ and Listeners’ Perceptions,” Journal of Voice 30 no. 6. 2016: 764.e1-764.e9.