When preparing your choir for a successful rehearsal, a good vocal warm-up is key. Vocal warm-ups don’t need to be terribly complicated. In fact, it’s best to keep them fairly simple and fun! This article will provide several examples of helpful warm-ups that are sure to prepare your choir for their next performance.
Loosening up the Body and Voice
It’s always a good idea to warm-up the whole body before you sing. A lot of choral directors implement this in every rehearsal, but still some do not. If you haven’t done this already with your group, now is the perfect time to get started. You’ll be amazed at the results!
This video featuring Dr. Roger Hale of Dixie State University wonderfully demonstrates the importance of loosening up the head and neck area. All singers hold tension in the jaw, face, and neck - it’s just part of being human. The more that you can get them to loosen up in this area, the more likely they are to make free and healthy sounds.
The video continues on from neck/head rolls to the simple lip trill. This vocal warm-up is very effective and never a bad idea. It’s simply a way to get airflow going with minimal effort. Trills also fight any sort of congestion, which can get in the way of good singing.
As mentioned above - vocal warm-ups should be fun. Things don’t always need to be so serious! Your singers are going to be in a much better place if they aren’t worried about perfection and are focused more on just getting their bodies and voices going.
Getting the Voice Ready for Singing
This video shows director Tony Leach of Penn State University demonstrating just that: unconventional ways to get the voice ready for singing. One concept he demonstrates very well is the use of movement in warm-ups - something certainly worth trying in your group to energize both the body and breath. Try warm-ups with swaying, clapping, marching or stomping.
Another thing that Professor Leach demonstrates well is the use of “speech to song” in warm-ups. This is definitely a fun way to get things started with your choir. Try a “call and response” warm-up where you play with various short phrases in head voice, character voices, etc. You can also try this with short counting exercises, and even by using exaggerated laughter!
Vowels and More
While warming up your choir, you should also consider vowels and the different requirements they have. Vowels that clash amongst your singers can really compromise the blend. This video, also featuring Dr. Roger Hale, shows some slightly more complicated warm-ups that are more suited for advanced groups.
One of the featured warm-ups you can try with your group is a classic arpeggio. There are so many ways to do these: try on various vowels, vowel combinations, and even fun phrases (such as “I love to sing”). This range-y exercise will present a solid challenge to the group.
Another vowel warm-up worth trying is to sing through each vowel (eh-ee-ah-oh-ooh), while singing every vowel on the same pitch, then moving up by half steps. This warm-up is not only excellent for vowel shaping, but it’s also good for breath control and singing a steady and supported phrase.
For even more fun, there are many ways to turn a simple major or minor scale into a silly phrase, such as “mommy made me mash my M&Ms.” The nasal consonant (m) is fantastic for resonance. Or, you can add some tongue twisters into your repertoire that will help your singers strengthen their ability to articulate.
Vocal Warm-ups for Practice at Home
Lastly, if you’re looking for a video you can share with your students that features quick vocal warm-ups they can do at home or in individual practice sessions, try this tutorial from vocal coach Stephanie Hoffman. It includes trills, humming, sirens, and breathing exercises.
Creativity and fun are incredibly important when warming up your choir. If you start your rehearsal with an engaging warm-up, you are much more likely to get your singers energized and ready to “bring it!”
With the variety of warm-ups out there, there is absolutely no excuse for a boring rehearsal. Ask your fellow directors which warm-ups are their choir’s favorites. YouTube also remains a solid resource, with countless choral professionals that have tested these warm-ups themselves. Have any more suggestions? Leave a comment and let us know!
This post was contributed by the team at TakeLessons Live.
Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection. She sings with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro Musica in Boston. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.