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From: Matlack, David Charles
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2018 12:21:09 +0000

David Holt taught me a good routine years ago and I still use it. I repeat “unga unga unga chicka chicka munga” numerous times. The “unga” sound really resonates in the head and sinuses so you can feel how those are going to sound, and it actually seems to warm them up to resonate correctly so I repeat that as much as I need to. In between repetitions I vigorously massage my cheeks in an up and down motion…shaking them loose.

Then I go through the musical scales even though I can’t hit a note to save my soul…perhaps that’s why I’m a storyteller and not a musician. I run through the scales first with a “mew” for each note, then repeat with an “aw” for each note. “Mew” is more pointed and then “aw” really opens things up. Then I blend the notes into a siren-like sound, up and down, up and down. I repeat that until I don’t get cracking on the high notes or a faltering or missing of the of the low notes. More cheek shaking and massaging my larynx.

I do as much of the above as I can before the sound check so I’m checking a warmed-up voice. On the sound check, I always use the same set of non-sense phrases and canonical first lines such as “A long time ago” and a few others. These are old friends and I know how they should sound. If that day’s set has some lines with a lot of P’s and S’s, I quickly run through those lines to remind myself where to be sure not to pop or hiss during the performance, but otherwise I don’t do a sound check with anything from the set I am about to do. Well maybe if there’s an unusual sound effect like a whistle or a shout away from the mic, I practice that and confirm that someone in the back can hear it. During the sound check I also do some body work to imagine myself being fully present and grounded on the stage. The latter I do by lightly bouncing in my knees with my soles flat on the boards and visualizing growing roots. I also run through the geography of the story and make sure I know where everything is in my space. I often check how the stage is oriented to the four cardinal directions and stay true to that during the story.

After the sound check, back to the above voice warm up and some body loosening like arm windmills, ballet bar exercises, etc. I have never encountered difficulties in finding a place to do this, but this often means finding myself in back of a building or being willing to look silly to passers-by. All of this requires getting to the venue at least an hour early, but I try to do that anyway as a courtesy to my hosts.

By day, I’m a professor and I warm up my voice for lecture, even when I have a mic. An hour is a long time to be using this valuable instrument. dcm

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