The Best Vocal Exercises from the 2017 Sweet Adelines International Education Symposium

Tori Cook Aug 09, 2017

Learn more: artistic development


I recently had the opportunity to attend my first Sweet Adelines International event - the International Education Symposium (IES) in Baltimore last week. The event is chock-full with educational workshops, quartet competitions, such as the Mixed Harmony and Rising Star Contests, and a whole lot of singing.

As the Music Director of a small barbershop chorus in Boston, I attended the symposium in the hopes of improving my rehearsal skills and learning how to prepare my chorus for regional competitions. I came away with quite a few new vocal exercises to teach to my chorus and I couldn't help but share (with cute animal pics)!


Fixing Posture


Go into the corner of a room. Place your hands facing out in front of your chest and resting on the connected walls. This will naturally keep your sternum high and your shoulders apart. Without changing the top position of your body, take one foot and step towards the wall. Stay for ten seconds, then switch legs. When you leave this corner, your body should naturally align itself in an open posture ready for singing.


Activating All Pharynges


In order to activate your pharynges, you need to bubble through each one. The laryngopharynx can be activated by bubbling in your throat and has the same sensation of rolling your "r's," purring, or gurgling. The oropharynx is activated with a lip trill or bubble. The nasopharynx can be activated by a lip trill/bubble while focusing on the forward space above your nose and between your eyebrows. You can help find the sensation by putting your pointer finger between your eyebrows and raising your elbow to a right angle while bubbling.


Keeping Resonance for High Voices Going Low

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For high voices going into the lower range, keeping a forward, ringing resonance can be a challenge. To help, lightly tap your sternum with a fist while you sing in your lower register. 


Energizing the Musical Line and Placing Consonants Forward


Take a piece of paper and lay it flat against the indent of your chin. Sing the musical phrase as if the notes were on top of the paper. This helps keep the pitch up by providing energy through the line. Then sing your consonants as if they were at the front of the paper, far away from your face. This helps put the consonants forward so as not to impede the musical line.


Energizing the Musical Line - AKA "Forward Motion"


With your hand facing your stomach, make a light chopping motion while singing "la la la." In the same position, now sing "la la la" with your hand (still lightly chopping) moving away from your body. This helps give forward motion to the line!


Thanks to Sweet Adelines International faculty, Dale Syverson and Peggy Gram, for these vocal exercises!


Got other vocal exercises from IES to share? Let us know in the comments!


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Tori Cook

Tori Cook is the former Director of Sales & Marketing at Chorus Connection, an active board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium, and a soprano with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. In a past life, she was the Music Director of the Harborlight Show Chorus and President of Chorus pro-Musica. When not making music, she daydreams about adopting a golden retriever puppy and scuba diving to exotic locations around the world.

Tori Cook