“Huh?” you say.
Yes, I say. Getcha Fire Engine on, my friend!
I first learned this great vocal exercise from a voice teacher in VA, named David Troup. I’ve always liked it for its usefulness and have practiced it for something like 15 years. Now, I like it even more, because I find it funny to talk about with my kids, who love fire engines, and it’s easy for anyone to learn.
In addition, it has a hidden value: it helps you touch on every pitch your vocal apparatus can currently create. I’ve since adapted it somewhat and tried some different things with it to make it even more effective, but the basic exercise will benefit you right away.
- Stand comfortably relaxed, with chest comfortably high, chin “normal” (not up, not down).
- Close your mouth.
- Take in a small breath (ie. don’t suck in a bunch of air–you don’t need it!)
- Hum from the lowest note you can produce without pushing down on your chin or on your larynx (the voice box, the adam’s apple) to as high of a pitch you can produce withoutsqueaking or squeezing your throat, and then back down again to your lowest note. (At this point, you know why it’s called “the Fire Engine”!)
- Do this in one breath. (So don’t take forever to get up to your highest note. Like that redneck comedian says, “Just gitterdone.”)
Repeat this exercise two more times in this set. Do several sets in a day, perhaps once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evening.
Note: Don’t race through it, because you do want to use all your breath; but don’t take so long to “get up there” that you run out of breath on the way down.
Another note: Listen to yourself and take care that you don’t get stuck midway and just get louder instead of going higher. This is a Fire Engine siren, not an air raid drill siren. The point is not to be loud, but to cover your entire range.
Really, I should say, “What are its best benefits?” Because there are many!
- The primary and most immediate benefit is that it puts you in touch with every pitch your vocal apparatus can produce right now.
- It helps you connect your voice. Often we sing with what almost amounts to two separate voices: our lower range (often referred to as the “chest voice”) and our upper range (often referred to as the “head” voice), instead of one smoothly-flowing, connected voice. This exercise counters that and connects your range areas, low to high to low.
- It helps you feel how the different resonators inside your upper body and head are “awakened,” or activated, at various parts of your range as you move the pitch up and down.
It has several other wonderful effects, but I’ll tell you about them in a different article, because we can use them to achieve different objectives.
Over time (and not a lot of time, either! It works pretty fast…), you’ll experience greater connectedness between your lower and upper range and a greater awareness of the sensations produced as you touch on different parts of your range.
Until next time, keep singing and playing!
Thanks for reading,