Nov 30, 2013

Effective Warm Ups For Choir, Part 2

In my last post, I described some of my "go-to" exercises to start the choral warm up process.   These were designed primarily to get the voice moving within controlled ranges.    For me, warm ups have specific goals:

My warm-up routine has several purposes:
  1. Physically engage the vocal mechanisms- larynx, diaphragm, intercostals, etc.
  2. Reinforce proper tonal placement and vowel shape
  3. Focus the individual singer mentally
  4. Build the choir's sense of ensemble
Now that I've gotten a few exercises going, I look to expand the range, work through the break(s), focus the tonal placement, and increase energy.

The Throat Clearer (1,2)

Especially useful for morning rehearsals, the throat clearer does just that-- helps shake the phlegm off the vocal chords.  Increase by half steps, starting at around a B flat. 

The Break Smoother (1,2)

This one can be performed on any vowel.  Choose vowels that your choir has been struggling with recently or randomly choose them.  I start around a D5 descending to a G4 most of the time.  One fringe benefit of this is that guys have to sing in the same octave as the girls, thereby addressing all voice part's breaks concurrently. Once I've worked down to about C4-F3, I'll start randomizing the pitch set.  I find that this helps with mental barriers singers have about their breaks.  Without being able to anticipate tessitura, singers are often find the elusive "mixed voice" more easily.

The Energizer (3,4)

 Whether overcoming typical Monday blues, Wednesday hump-day issues, or Friday focus, the energizer is an important addition I make on a judgement call as I assess my singers during the warm up process.  My favorite energizer is a game called Squash I learned from our elementary music specialist, Tammy Holt.  It is basically a mirroring game wherein the director does one movement for 4 beats, says squash, and then moves to a new movement.  The choir singers are always one motion behind the director.  For example:

Director:  Claps | Snaps | Eye Blinks | Head Taps | Ear Touch | Nose Tap | Floor Stomp
Singers:    XXXX | Claps |
Snaps | Eye Blinks | Head Taps | Ear Touch | Nose Tap | Floor Stomp

 This game not only physically engages the entire body, but it also increases focus and awareness.  

The Consonant Crusher (1,3)

Fairly self-explanatory, the sole purpose of this exercise is to reinforce crisp, well-articulated initial and ending consonants.  I'll go up a half step each time, and I might also increase speed and randomize the pitch set to increase energy and maintain focus.

What warm-ups do you find helpful?  Share your favorites below and I'll include some in my final post on warm-ups next time!

Moving forward,
J.D. Frizzell, a composer, conductor, and educator, is the Director of Fine Arts and Director of Vocal Music at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, TN. He earned the double Master's in Music Theory/Composition and Conducting from The University of Southern Mississippi, where he also earned the bachelor's degree in Music History and Literature. He is currently a candidate for the Doctorate of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at the University of Kentucky. He has many published compositions available from and other sheet music retailers.

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