Those first few singing lessons in a person’s life generally involve little actual singing. At this point, the would-be singer will require several months of simple exercises to develop posture and muscle tone, confidence and vocal technique. Here are a few silly little exercises that you can do to begin the development of the voice and prepare for that first voice lesson, whether you intend to sing or to declaim.

Yawning - When you yawn, the vocal folds relax. Notice that feeling of open space inside the throat. Remember that relaxation, and make it part of your inhalation.

Breathing - The breath is the foundation of the voice. Sit firmly in a chair with both feet on the floor. Lean forward, so that your elbows touch your knees. Keep your back straight. Take a deep breath, feeling your lower ribs expand. Let out the breath as a slow even hiss. After a few times, try to do the same while sitting up. Then standing. Or lying down, which I find particularly relaxing as a precursor to a nap.

Smiling - In many people, some of the muscles involved in raising the cheeks in a smile are also involved in lifting the soft palate. And you thought that singers were naturally happy! Yawnhale-smile.

Sighing - Standing, take a nice breath, as above. Hum a sighing sound from the high register. Don’t grab the highest note you think you have, just a comfortable one. Try to make a sound like “Aaaah” at the top, turning into “mmmnn”, and smile while you are doing it.

Windmills - Standing, take a good breath, as previously described. Pick a comfortable note and hold it (choose a comfortable volume). Imagine a ray of sound, like fire from the mouth of a dragon, project out from your mouth and hit the wall. Keeping your armature and posture relaxed, slowly bring your arms up from your sides. Try not to change the quality of the tone as your arms move to level with your shoulders. Don’t forget to smile.

Sirens - Standing, take an expansive breath, as described above. Start with a medium-low tone and, using the open vowel of your choice, smiling, gradually bring the pitch up by increasing the support with your thoraco-abdominal diaphragm. It is very important NOT to change the pitch by doing anything constricting with the throat. So the pitch goes up to as high as is comfortable, then down a little faster to as low as comfortable, then back up to the top again. Can you do it in one breath? Can you do it twice with one breath?

Bouncing - Go back to breathing, above. Before you exhale, put two fingers on your stomach, just under the sternum. Pretend to push that spot and make a short, strong hiss. Use the muscles to begin and end each hiss, not your throat. This should make the hand on your stomach bounce a little.

Voice students are famous in conservatories for not practicing much, but talking all the time. This is because the voice can be easily fatigued by use. Furthermore, mental fatigue affects posture, which affects vocal production. And overworking can strain the voice, with the possibility of permanent damage. All of this contributes to the reputation of vocal students as catty gossips.

If any of these exercises leaves your throat feeling sore or stiff or your voice hoarse, cease! Go back to breathing and yawning.

After following this regimen for a few months, you should notice increased volume of breath, improved breath control, and a more comfortable or slightly wider vocal range. Also, with that improved breath control, you will be able to speak more softly and shout much more loudly. Don’t shout that often, it's hard on the voice. Smoking may distract from some of these results. And don't practice if you have a cough, as your vocal folds are already be strained.