What is a Vocalise?
The vocalise has been used for warming up, and for training the voice, since the mid eighteenth century. Jean-Antoine Berard’s 1755 compilation L’art du Chant includes a selection of songs without words, pieces chosen for their value as exercises to assist with the establishment of sound vocal technique.
The vocalise is always sung to a vowel, or a combination of vowels, and can range from a quite simple piece through to a more difficult composition by composers such as Lully, Marchesi or Rachmaninoff.
What is the Value of this type of Exercise?
The value of the vocalise – a “song without words” – is that the singer is able to concentrate on the various mechanisms which total the production of quality technique, without the hindrance and distraction of lyrics or consonants. The first step is always to establish good vocal habits and technique in the most comfortable tessitura of the voice, and extend the range from there, both higher, and lower. Once the sound is co-ordinated, freely produced, and consistent during the performance of a simple exercise in a comfortable range, it is beneficial to open up the range in both directions. A singer should proceed with a combination of all vocal and physical factors working in harmony, starting with the more simple vocalises, and working towards the more challenging pieces. There are literally hundreds of vocalises in print, but an excellent selection is available on this site. They are numbered, and a wise student will work their way through from Vocalise 1 onwards. These vocalises will help the singer work on breathing, support, low notes, high notes, flexibility, agility, legato, staccato, and dynamics. They are in mp3 format for easy download, and can be purchased either individually or as a zip file.