Nov 24, 2013

Effective Warm Ups for Choir

This is part one of a three part series on warm-ups.  You can also read part 2 or part 3.

Recently, I had the honor of warming up the All-Southwest Honor Choir for my mentor and college choir director, Dr. Gregory Fuller.  Some teachers and students indicated that they enjoyed the warm up exercises I used, so I am posting them here over the course of a few posts.

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
In addition to these goals, I can't waste time.  Every second counts.  If I can accomplish multiple goals in each warm up exercise, even better.
 The Easy Open (1,2,3)

This warmup is great place to start.  It has a three note range, improves unison tuning, and develops proper vowel placement.  I choose different vowels on different days based on the literature I'm teaching. 

The Placement Helper (1,2)

I often find that as I teach private voice lessons, brighter vowels like "Eee" are much easier for singers to place  in a forward position with a raised soft palate.  By combining a bright vowel with a closed mouth shape, the focus turns to the onset of the vowel each time.  The end of the warmup exercise attempt is designed to transfer the placement of the brighter vowel to the darker one.  

The Lip/Tongue Trill (1)

When warming up quickly in a small amount of time is necessary, I use this one.  Slide up a perfect 5th and back down on a lip trill or (more advanced) tongue trill.  Another benefit of this exercise is that it is not easy to do without substantial breath support.  I'll often reinforce that support by having singers pretend like they are pulling a string out of their bellybutton, breathing in through a straw, or both in between trills.

These are just some of the exercises I employ for the first couple of minutes of the warm up routine.  In my next post, I'll address range extension and ensemble building.

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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