Acting in Plays, Singing/Warming up


Dear Sir,

I've been singing for nearly twenty years now - starting as a boy chorister and then spending five years having intense bel canto training with a professional tenor with a view to training at a conservatoire and entering the profession myself. In four years he'd transformed my range from seven notes to around two octaves (Bb2-C#5).

When I was preparing for a show I was assigned a different voice teacher and actively discouraged from working with my original teacher and mentor. I suffered some fairly serious vocal problems and a total loss of confidence which led to me taking a two year break from singing.

After that, I spent three years studying vocal physiology and looking at research into a wide variety of techniques and methods of singing. My voice, and more importantly my top range is coming back, but I have a question about warming up the voice.

I have studied so many methods and exercises I find myself confused about how to warm up my voice.

Is the best way of doing to focus on breathing exercises and three,five, eight and nine note scales from the bottom of my voice (Bb2) and the middle ranges of the voice (C4-F4/F#4) before checking on the top notes (g4-C4) with a couple of octave and half and two octave arepeggios on ah and ee (As in vita) or would you recommend another method?

I would usually use the Ah vowel to warm up on keeping it as a pure Ah as a in the italian word vita and then changing it to oh (Italian OH as is Paglaccio) sound at  D4 and then to Uh (as in Function in the British english word. Is this appropriate?

There are other exersises which I have come accross - lip bubbles, buzzing noises, etc, but I don't know how useful they are.

I'd really appreciate your advice - I wonder if I've reached saturation point a bit? I apologise for the long question, but I wanted to give you a bit of background.

Kind regards,


Hello, Owen

Thank you for the question. I appreciate the details.

If you were in my studio, I would ask you for more information -- starting with the show you were in. Did you actually get into the Conservatory? Was the show produced at the Conservatory? What was the show and why do you think it caused you such vocal distress?

If you were in a Conservatory such as the one we have here in San Francisco, then you cannot work with a coach outside the Conservatory. If you do, you will be dismissed from the school.

If you weren't in the Conservatory, then how did you wind up with a new coach?

Did your first coach determine your vocal category? As a tenor, did he determine that you were also a tenor? Was the role you sang written for a tenor or a baritone?

These factors and many more are all the variables that go into answering your basic question, i.e., a proper warm-up. The most important issue is your vocal category.

My job as a professional vocal coach is to determine your category and to then train you accordingly. A two octave+ range between Bb and C# certainly covers the stretch of the tenor repertoire. But, given your question and your age and the time you were away from studying and performing, I have to hear you sing these two octaves. It's very possible you are a tenor. It's also very possible you might be a lyric baritone who needs more stuff at the lower end of his register.

Would you be interested in contacting me through Skype? It doesn't cost anything, all you have to do is sign up. That way I can hear how you are doing what you are doing and offer you some tips on how to do it better. If so, send me another question and indicate it as "Private". I will send you my e-mail and we can take it from there.

In the meantime, the vowels you are using and interchanging at certain points are not always the best vowels to use to solve issues about proper placement. In fact, they can exacerbate and make worse all the problems you've got right now. Nevertheless, don't start your warm-up at the very bottom of your register, start at the lower end of your middle register through the lower end of your upper register and gradually work your way out to either end.

Lip trills, buzzing, etc., will do nothing to solve your placement issues.

No matter what kind of breathing exercises you do, their contribution and worth must be measured by singing material which includes extremely long and challenging phrases. Look at the songs of Schubert and Mahler.

My own experience is that such stamina is built through a combination of cardiovascular exercises, i.e., running, swimming, the treadmill, climbing the steep hills of San Francisco, etc., and learning to hold the breath through an increasingly larger number of reps. It also burns fat like crazy.

Best regards,
Sean Martinfield  

Acting in Plays, Singing

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Sean Martinfield


I am a professional vocal coach in San Francisco. I have published over 3300 responses related to vocal training - particularly as it relates to Musical Theatre, Pop/Standard, and Opera. I have 30 years of experience as a personal trainer to working singers and actors in the San Francisco Bay Area. I sang professionally for 20 years and know what it means to live the life of a musician. I can determine your voice category, i.e., Tenor, Baritone, Bass, Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Alto, Alto Belter, etc., and how to broaden and strengthen your range. Need an audition song for a Broadway Musical? I can assist you with your song selections and help you build an audition portfolio that demonstrates your vocal category and meets the requirements specified in the audition notice. I have created a vocal methodology, "The Belter`s Method". It will enable those in Cabaret and Musical Theatre to practice more efficiently because it focuses on the vocal demands of professional performers and will keep you performance-ready. If what you want is a better voice and more control over your career moves and choices, contact me at: I am also a music and cultural critic for and I interview internationally recognized musicians, singers, dancers, and recording artists -- particularly those who are now appearing or scheduled to perform in San Francisco.


As a vocal coach, I work primarily with singers and actors throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. My students range from absolute beginners to working professionals, from kids to senior citizens. The vast majority of my clients come to me through recommendation. I know how to identify any singer's vocal category, i.e., soprano, tenor, alto, baritone, etc. I know how to muscle-up every singer's vocal range and to expand it beyond conventional definitions. I have developed a vocal methodology for those who want to know how to belt, THE BELTER'S METHOD. There are a number of major components to my work as a vocal coach. The first is to identify the client's vocal category and to strengthen and maximize the vocal range accordingly. Then it's about teaching a reliable vocal workout that will enable the client to gain better control of their musicianship. That includes scale work to expand the vocal range and to improve placement, breath control, and diction. Then we work on material for the audition portfolio, the immediate job or assignment, a recording session, etc. My task to is to better equip singers and actors who are hoping to or relying upon their performance skills and vocal endurance to maintain a career in the Performing Arts. My clients regularly appear in cabarets and musical productions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Some have worked in New York and gone on National Tours. For more information, Contact me at:


San Francisco State University BA in Theatre Arts; graduate work in Theatre, Philosophy, and Comparative Reiligion. Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley Graduate work in Ethics

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