Benchmark Institute is a training and performance development organization dedicated to increasing the quality and quantity of legal services to low-income communities.
  Our Training
  Learning Portal
  Best Practices in Learning
  Orientation to Legal Services
  About Us
  Support Us
  Contact Us
  Email Newsletter


Marla’s Basic Warm-Up
Marla Beth Elliott is a performance artist, Professor at Evergreen College and pro bono coordinator for Washington State. She is faculty for Benchmark’s Trial & Hearing Skills Training.

Yawn and stretch. Check yourself kinesthetically and work your tight spots. Be sure to breathe and sigh.

Give yourself the basic centered stance: feet about a shoulder width apart, insides of the feet parallel, knees flexed. Center your knees over feet, hips over knees, waist over hips, chest over waist, shoulders over chest, head and neck over shoulders. Lengthen your spine, relax, and breathe.

Let your arms float to the ceiling, first from the elbows, then from the wrist, then as if someone were pulling on strings attached to each finger. Let your head fall back, open your mouth, and extend all your energy upwards.

Drop your wrists, drop your elbows, drop your shoulders.

Drop your head forward, curl down your spine, bend your knees and suspend your spine from your hips. Stretch, shake, moan, breath, hang out and relax. Curl up your spine from the bottom, one vertebra at a time, leaving your head for last. Repeat.

Let your head drop to your shoulder. Rest your hand on your ear for an extra stretch. Remember to breath and release. Come back to center, repeat to the other side. Do each side at least twice.

Drop your head forward to stretch the back of your neck. Clasp your hands on the back of your head for an extra stretch. Roll your neck back up to center.

Drop your skull back and let your jaw drop open and stretch your jaw muscles. Remember to let your lower jaw sit back in its hinge joint, rather than pop forward. Open your throat wide and visualize a clear channel going deep into your abdomen. Keep your throat open wide as you lengthen the back of your neck to bring your head back to center. Repeat going forward and back again.

Roll your head around in a circle.

Shrug your shoulders high and drop them three times. Roll them backward in circles. Shake out your shoulders. Shake out your arms.

Extend your arms, lower your shoulders, lengthen your neck, rotate your wrists four times each direction. Let your arms float down to your sides, shake them out.

Move your rib cage to the side, center, other side, center, several times. Move your rib cage forward, center, back, and center several times. Take your rib cage around in a circle.

Stretch your spine by letting your arms hang floppily at your sides, pivoting around to sight a spot behind you; swing back and forth, arms flopping, spotting at your spot each time. Slow down before you stop.

Move your hips forward, center, back, and center several times. Move them to the side, center, other side, center, several times. Take your hips around in a circle.

Shake your legs and feet out. Jiggle up and down on the balls of your feet, lengthening and letting go.

Let your feet spread across the floor. Feel your whole foot on the floor. Shift your weight to your toes, back to center, to the heels, back to center. Shift your weight to the insides of your feet, back to center, outsides, center. Repeat.
Feel a current of electricity run from the center of the earth up through your feet, up your legs, up your spine and out the top of your head. Take a minute to breathe and be part of that energy.

Continuing to lengthen your spine, shift your weight to one foot. Bring the other knee up and let it dangle like a marionette. Let it drop and come back up several times. Then extend your leg and rotate your ankle, several times each direction. Set your foot gently down and repeat with the other leg.

Run a kinesthetic check through your whole body: center each part of your body like a building block on the part below it. Lengthen your spine, release as many muscles as you can, relax and breathe.

Face and mouth
Massage your face. Rub around your eyes, sinus cavities, nose, cheeks, and jaw. Give special attention to your jaw joints.

Make funny faces. Scowl, grimace, pull your face diagonally. Monster and pirate faces. Pull your face into the center like a drawstring bag (“tiny face”). Then stretch it all open (“silent scream”).

Shake your face out and make your jowls flap. Blow your lips out until they’re flabby

With your mouth closed, run your tongue in a circle around your teeth inside your lips.

Stretch your tongue by putting the tip behind your lower front teeth and letting the middle roll out of your mouth, like a wave crashing. Feel the stretch all the way down the back of your throat. This should create an impulse to yawn.

Once you start yawning, exploit and sustain your yawn impulse. Yawn in different ways: horizontally, vertically, on one side at a time, while grinning, while holding your lips in an “ooo” shape, etc. Make up your own yawns. Yawn AT LEAST until your eyes start watering.

Lie down on the floor with your arms at your sides, palms facing up. Center your body as you did when standing. Release your body into the floor as if you were a sandbag and all the sand ran to the bottom.

Let your mouth hang gently open without forcing. Rest your tongue on the floor of your mouth. Allow your throat to open wide. Breathe easily through your mouth.

Be aware of a warm spot in the center of your body, about two inches below the navel and in the center of your belly. Allow the breath entering your body to move to that spot first. Visualize a tube running from the back of your throat to that spot in the pit of your stomach.

Notice your impulse to breathe and give in to it. Let each breath be a little longer, a little fuller than the breath before it. Put your hand on your stomach to feel your abdomen fill with breath.

Now that you are relaxed and have all the breath you need, find an effortless touch of sound with your vocal chords. Make the sound pleasurable. Feel it rather than hear it. Allow its vibrations to fill more of your body and enjoy the feeling of the sound. Experiment with the vibrations.

Change the pitch to drop the vibrations deep into your stomach. Siren up to move the vibrations into your chest, throat, mouth, and head.

What if I only have a few minutes to warm up and I’m in a public place?
Go into the handicapped stall in the bathroom. Take five minutes to roll down your spine and up again, center yourself, stretch your throat, and get in touch with your breathing. Then fix your hair and clothes that got tousled when you hung upside down, murmur your affirmation, and go do your thing.

Two-Minute Vocal Warm Up
By Susan Berkley

Do you warm up your voice? If you don't, you should. Good speech takes muscle. And just as your leg muscles work better if you warm them up before a run, so will your speech muscles work better if you warm them up at the start of your day. Your voice will sound better, stronger. Your articulation will become more clear and crisp. You'll be easier to understand. And as you strengthen your speech muscles, you'll be able to talk longer without vocal fatigue.

While warming up the voice is important for those who speak a lot, it's also important for those who don't. Some people have solitary jobs where they hardly speak at all, such as computer programmers, artists or writers. If the vocal chords are under used, they may actually begin to weaken and atrophy. So that your voice stays as healthy as possible, I include a short version of my favorite vocal warm up below.

Here's how it works. The sentences in the warm up have been designed to work many of the vowel and consonant sounds in the English language. Saying them properly can actually strengthen your articulator muscles. Before you begin, drink a glass of warm water. Then, read each sentence aloud slowly, pronouncing each word as carefully and properly as you can. These are not tongue-twisters. DO NOT RACE.

While doing the warm up, if your throat becomes sore or your voice feels strained, stop immediately. Work up gradually until you can comfortably do the entire exercise. And of course, if you have persistent hoarseness, weakness or any kind of throat or voice problem, please see your doctor.

-Eat each green pea.
-Aim straight at the game.
-Ed said get ready.
-It is in Italy.
-I tried my kite.
-Oaks grow slowly.
-Father was calm as he threw the bomb on the dock.
-An awed audience applauded Claude.
-Go slow Joe, you're stepping on my toe.
-Sauce makes the goose more succulent.
-Up the bluff, Bud runs with the cup of love.
-Red led men to the heifer that fell in the dell.
-Maimed animals may become mean.
-It's time to buy a nice limeade for a dime.
-Oil soils doilies.
-Flip a coin, Roy, you have a choice of oysters or poi.
-Sheep shears should be sharp.
-At her leisure, she used rouge to camouflage her features.
-There's your cue, the curfew is due.
-It was the student's duty to deliver the Tuesday newspaper.
-He feels keen as he schemes and dreams.
-Much of the flood comes under the hutch.
-Boots and shoes lose newness soon.
-Ruth was rude to the youthful recruit.
-Vivid, livid, vivifying.
-Vivid experiences were lived vicariously.
-Oddly, the ominous octopus remained calm.
-The pod will rot if left on the rock.
-Look, you could put your foot on the hood and push.
-Nat nailed the new sign on the door of the diner.
-Dale's dad died in the stampede for gold.
-Thoughtful thinkers think things through.
-Engineer Ethelbert wrecked the express at the end of Elm Street.

King Kong
From Bert Decker author, "Speak to Win" video and CD.

To add resonance to your voice:

Say: "This is my normal speaking voice."
King Kong, Ping Pong, Ding Dong
Sing increasingly lower with each word.

Say: "This is my normal speaking voice."

Your voice register should be 2 levels lower.

Performance Skills
Use All Communication Channels
Preparing Your Mind for Performance
Overcoming Speaking Anxiety

Marla’s Basic Warm-Up
Two-Minute Vocal Warm Up
King Kong