Feb 2, 2014

Effective Warm Ups For Choir, Part 3

In Part 1, 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.    In part 2, I showed how I look to expand the range, work through the break(s), focus the tonal placement, and increase energy.  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
The end of the warm-up process should take the energy created from earlier and harness/focus that as a model for the rehearsal process.  It should also physically warm up the voice throughout its full range as much as possible.

The N-B-C (1,2,3)

This exercise, adapted from colleague Jeffrey Ames, brings singers a bit farther out of their comfortable range.  Focus on the slide and connection between the first two notes and the crescendo on the final note.  The brightness of the e vowel should help bring a more forward, resonant placement to the tone. Plus, your singers will never forget the intervals So-Mi-Do (Or Do-La-Fa)!

The Octavizer (1,2,3)

Now that we're fairly warmed up, I like to do something that leaps an octave.  While I regularly employ a few different things for this, The Octavizer is one of my favorites.  The e vowel in "Sing" brings resonance and forward placement to the more open Ah vowel.  The "Ng" at the end of "Sing" aids in connecting those two vowels together.  Make sure  your singers are keeping a consistent and open Ah vowel throughout the descent.  I have found that they tend to close the vowel as they go lower.

The Hard One (1,2,3)

For more advanced singers, this is a great final warm up.  It combines range extension, articulation, buoyancy, pitch control, and support.  Remind your singers not to slam the highest note.  Rather, encourage them to crescendo through that top note as they begin the descent.

The Blender (3,4)

This one comes from my friend and colleague Amon Eady.  You can reduce it to as little as a two-part canon or expand it out to 8 parts.  Singers learn to blend within their section as well as balance other sections.  They also have to hold their notes as they pass against close intervals in other parts.  To make it more difficult, slow it down. 

On all of these warm-ups, employ physical movements to reinforce placement.  For example, I may have singers start with a hand behind their head and then move it forward in a semicircle pointing in front of them as they move through an exercise.  If I am looking for a taller vowel shape, I'll have them place a straight, vertical hand in front of their mouth so they can feel how open it actually is.

You may have noticed none of these warm ups are particularly complicated or involved.  In fact, most of them are very simple.  While I have tried many different things in my choir's warm up routine, I find that the most effective exercises are straightforward.

For those of you with developing choirs, I do have a simple 2-page "Primer", complete with a music theory guide and some warm ups.  Check it out if you are interested.  You also get a fun little piece I wrote from the set "Nursery Rhymes Gone Mad"! 


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 www.cadenzaone.com and other sheet music retailers.

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