Developing your voice takes patience and a routine. Maintaining a voice that is already pretty well developed takes less time, but then you'll be spending more time on rehearsing, recording and performing. Firstly let's talk about the former. During my 16 years of teaching I have discovered that many people who want to learn to sing (or get back into singing) avoid practicing because they don't know how to get started, they then drop their lessons because they feel they are not making improvement. But there are other factors at play too. Is it because warming up is boring? Is it because they don't know what to sing in order to warm up? Is it because, they just want to get to singing the song part? Is it because they get frustrated with their voice and the way it sounds when it's not warmed up? Probably all of the above. But know this...you only get to the maintenance stage when you've followed a disciplined plan that is right for you. Some warm up CD's are great because you can just stick them on and be done with it, but you may find you need the attention of an expert to help guide you through because every voice is different and requires a different navigation process around scales, exercises and songs.
1. Warming Up Can Sound Crap! Deal With It.
Take a Yin attitude to your warm up. Approach it with a kind and relaxed mindset. Focus on YOU and YOUR needs. Don't get frustrated that you don't sound like your favourite Diva/o yet. Focus on the present moment, literally immerse yourself in it and just enjoy the sounds you are making..... no judgement.
2. Sing Anything - Just Sing!
Improvise your warm up.... here is me warming up first thing in the morning. I'm just babbling around singing anything that comes to mind for about 8 mins. If you wanna sing songs during your warm up, that's fine too, just sing them in a low key, non performy type way until your voice starts to wake up and your vocal chords start to connect.
3. Belting is NOT a Warm Up!
Stay within your default setting for a while. So if you are a natural thick fold singer (chest voice), don't go flying around in your high thin folds (head voice). Likewise, if you are a natural thin folds (head voice) singer, don't try singing loud in your chest voice (let alone belting). In fact upper chest mix or belting should be reserved for your vocal workout. Stay with what's comfy and easy for a while, even if it means, TALKING some lyrics for a bit.
4. Aim For A Clear Tone
Aim for getting a clear tone through your range as much as possible, so eliminating breathiness from your sound. This can be done with resonance exercises like twanging and crying. But don't over do it as these exercise really work the muscles in the larynx and should be interspersed with speaking or lower singing/lower larynx (yawning) exercises. Quacking and meowing type sounds are good.
5. Get a Warm Up CD or Download.
By all means, get a warm up CD, these really are great but don't forget to see a singing teacher as well so you can understand your voice better and negotiate problems that you encounter. My program www.mysinginglessonsonline.com offers learn to sing warm ups and workouts plus video exchange lessons where you can get prescriptive advice. You can also try Kim Chandler's Funky & Fun CD's.