17 Apr 2014

Singing Lessons: “Kəniii” Vocal Warm-up is Your Go-To Tool for Healthy Placement and Focus

Do you struggle with a breathy tone, laryngal fatigue, or vocal placement that feels too far back?


Then this “kəniiiii” vocal warm-up is your “ninja” move to master… it is quick, focused, and gets the job done!






This mixture of consonants and a vowel activates the air flow and focuses the sound with forward placement.


How? By using a specific, unvoiced beginning consonant, lifting the soft palate, bringing awareness to the oral cavity as the primary place of resonance, and transitioning gently to a bright “i” vowel. Click on video below to watch a demonstration of this warm-up. 



The “kəniiiii” Warm-up


 How and Why it works…


(This section is for those of you that love the technical details… the rest of you skip ahead to the section titled “4 Points to Remember” and then watch the video demo)




To make a “k” sound, there is a temporary stop in the airflow, the back of the tongue lifts and gently pushes against the soft palate. The “k” sound is heard when the air is released.


For a singer, this consonant gives a precise point of contact to feel and recognize the onset of airflow. If you don’t have breath moving, you can make this sound.


Image from American English Pronunciation
Tongue position for the consonant “k.” Image from American English Pronunciation




The “n” sound is made in the nasal cavity. To check for correct “n” placement, try singing a sustained “nnnnnn” and then plug your nose, because the air is blocked from traveling through the nasal cavity the “n” tone cannot be made. This means you are making the “n” in the correct place.


For singers, the “n” allows the entire oral cavity to be the active location for resonance –  taking pressure off the larynx and allowing for healthy placement.


Note: A schwa or “ə”  naturally occurs as you transition from the “k” to the “n.” Allow the schwa sound to resonate with a lifted soft palate. 




The “i” vowel, as pronounced in the word free, offers a gentle transition from the nasal “n” to a sustained singing bright “i”. The “i” is made with high tongue in the back, the sides of the tongue are touching the upper side teeth, and the tip of the tongue is behind the bottom front teeth.


There is very little movement of the tongue or jaw as you move from the “n” the “i” –

This simple transition is wonderful for singers, as it keeps it simple and easy to “streamline” the focus of the sound.


Image from American English Pronunciation
Tongue position for “i” vowel, as in the word “free.” Image from American English Pronunciation



Once you feel comfortable with the “kəniiii” warm-up, feel free to switch out the ending vowel to other vowel sounds.



4 Important Points to Remember              

1. Relax Your Jaw – allow your jaw to gently fall in the down and back position. You will move from the “k” consonant to the “n” consonant to the “i” vowel, but the jaw is NOT involved in the movement. You will see in the above video that my jaw remains relaxed and neutral through the entire exercise.


2. Relax Your Lips – when you watch my demo video, you will see my lips creating the “i” sound. Engage the lips, but keep them relaxed as well.


3. Relaxed Tongue – the tip of the tongue starts at bottom front teeth and moves to the upper ridge for the “n” sound and then back down to behind the front teeth. Don’t let the tongue slip back into the mouth. The sides of the tongue are supple.


4. Allow for an Open Throat – inhale a quiet breath as a yawn; sense how open your throat is. Keep this space as you sing the warm-up.




Bonus Suggestion:


Play different note patterns when singing this warm-up.


In the video, I demonstrate a five note pattern descending, but you may use a three or four note pattern, chromatic formation, or an ascending or descending triad. Have fun experimenting with different patterns.


Why not try a phrase of the music you are working on? Begin the phrase with the “kəniiii” and sing out the phrase sustaining the “i” vowel.



When to give this warm-up a try…


 – Does your voice sound or feel breathy? Use the” kəniiii” warm-up.


 – Do you feel your placement is too far back? Try the “kəniiii” warm-up.


– Do you feel laryngeal pressure or fatigue? Try the “kəniiii” warm-up.



Have fun warming-up with the “ninja” warm-up “kəniiii!” 



Let me know how it goes in the comment section below and share this post with a singer friend!

Happy singing!




P.S. Would you like to take voice lessons?

Email me today for your free 30-minute singing lesson and voice assessment in-studio or via skype – my email: triciapine@rejoiceinyourvoice.com

I look forward to hearing from you! 



  1. So, is this exercise just a way to warm up the lower register or.. how can you apply it to actual singing? Is it helpful to come back to this exercise if you’re struggling with a certain vocal hiccup?

    1. Great question, Nancy. If you are working on songs that carry you into your lower register and you are finding that while you are singing the song your tone may be breathy, unfocused, or perhaps too “weighty” in this lower register, then this warm-up may fix some of those issues. Could you use this throughout your range? Absolutely. I tend to take it up and as low or as high in the voice as feels comfortable. Keeping in mind to allow the body and vocal instrument to be relaxed in the process. To transition into singing…after warming-up, you could sing your phrase of music on the “kəniiii” and see how it focuses the tone of your melody. I too may do an additional hybrid and sing the melody and begin each word with the “kənnnn” then adding the vowel and ending consonants of the word being sung. This helps greatly with refining the vocal placement muscle memory. Then sing the phrase using the words and keep the feel of the placement you had with the “kəniiii.” I would try this warm-up if your a vocal hiccup involves anything to do with a unfocused tone. Hope this helps! Let me know if you would like to connect vis skype for further clarification for your voice. Thanks again for you your question. Have a beautiful day!

  2. LOVE your videos. I just shared this on the high school music and drama pages! Great stuff Tricia! YAY!

    1. You are awesome, Cena! I know they will find it useful 🙂 Thanks for sharing the singing love!

  3. Wow – I’m actually doing this one right already, Tricia! What a nice change of pace for me.

    Here’s the real puzzler, though: How did you ever manage to get such a beautiful freeze frame from your video? I’m envious!

    1. Great, Kathleen! Good to hear 🙂 I would love to know what other “go-to” warm-ups you use. I am always eager to pick-up new warm-ups.
      Tell you what… I will send you an email about the video thumbnail – it is really a pice of cake. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Great video and exercise Tricia! I will share it with my women’s singing group!

    1. I am sooooo glad you found it helpful 🙂 Thank you for sharing it with your friends! And if ever there are topics you would like me to address in more detail… please let me know! Happy singing and hugs to your ladies in your singing group!

  5. Hi Tricia,
    I’ve found this exercise to be a really solid one to get your lower and middle range warmed up nicely before stretching out into the upper notes in a gentle, relaxed manner.

    Thanks so much for sharing this tip! And apologies for sending through two comments re: your previous ‘birds’ post – my first message didn’t appear to work so I posted another one just in case – sorry! Please keep these blog posts and videos coming – they are super helpful.
    – Therese

    1. Ohhh, Therese, I am so glad you like this one 🙂 I have more warm-ups on the way! And no worries on the two comments. Every blog format is so different and I really appreciate you commenting – thank you! Have a beautiful day!

  6. What a great idea. I’m not a singer, but I can see how these would help in my speaking and breathing.

    1. Thanks, Jane for your comment 🙂 Even if you sing in the shower or humm along to your favorite Pandora station – I consider you a singer! Let me know how it goes as you apply it to you speaking and breathing. Many of my students have seen improvements in in their public speaking stamina and in their daily exercise routine from integrating the techniques on this blog. Have fun!

  7. I love the video! Thanks for this interesting and educational blog post.

    1. Thank you, Dorothy, for stopping by 🙂 I am so glad you liked it! Have a great week!

  8. Hi Patricia,

    I just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful videos, they are so helpful! I’m a singer and singing teacher and I have often found myself on your website when looking for some new material and warmups for my students (and myself!) to try.

    Thank you again!


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