R – School aged and adult choirs. I get it. The body and the voice have to warm up. But why then do bands warm up? I got the trumpet in my case, it takes 12 minutes for me to warm up on it and I’ll do so before rehearsal begins. But I STILL have to warm up with the band. Why? Because bands don’t use warm ups to “warm up”. They use them to tune into the brain, cognitive and musical expectations from the players as musicians. Watch a band warmup and see if I’m wrong about this. They use warmups to tune the ensemble. TUNE the ensemble. At every dynamic range. And they do so through visual cues (music or conductor or both). They read through something. Together. They get ready to be musical.

And with all due respect, they somehow manage to do all this without back rubs.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for the vocal and physical warmup for choirs. It’s good to engage the choir in a relaxed atmosphere and let the “community” unfold. And a backrub never hurt anyone (though I DO remember this time teaching in Vermont when a logger… oh, skip it, I’ll save that story for another time). The issue isn’t if we should do all this or not, but rather, should this all be the primary goal?

I have a very strong conviction that the choral warmup should involve the ears, the eyes and the mind. When those three things are actively engaged through a series of warmups that are implemented for those purposes, great things begin to occur for the ensemble. Jarika and I will elaborate on each of these, but the overarching benefit is this: reference points!!!!! More to come on this subject.

Here is a link to an excellent article by Pamela Elrod that gets into the “what” behind the why. It is brief and a “MUST read”. The exercises (and mp3s accompanying each) alone are invaluable(!): http://www.singernetwork.org/bettersinging/detail.aspx?cid=f131ac22-0576-44a3-8a31-f762a6d649db

J – I LOOOVE THIS ALREADY! New Stuff to read :-) It’s all about the needs of your choir and the steps they need to take in technique and music literacy (listening and reading) to become a better ensemble and grow as individual musicians. That being said it is almost pointless for me to physically warm up my 4/5 choir- you bet they’re are physically warmed up! They were just running around throwing rocks at each other on the playground. I quickly re-align their posture and we are on our way!

KNOW your choir (and use these warm ups to get to know them)!!! The warm up up has been an invaluable part of my first couple of months teaching in a new school. I am able to introduce new “choral concepts” and continue developing those throughout the rehearsal process.

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4 Responses to warmups

  1. Christopher G Keene says:

    I completely agree, it’s so easy as a singer to fall into habits of poor singing and technique and go on “autopilot” when the warmups are repetitive and require little thought or musicality. If you can’t answer the question “why are they singing this?” with a response rooted in an educational goal, it’s time to reassess what you’re having your singers do.

  2. matt6dw says:

    Amen, Brotha. Warm ups became much more enjoyable for me when they became about teaching instead of going through the motions. That all changed when I read this article by the Guru, Bob Russell. Check it out: http://www.stampedecitychorus.com/vocaltraininginchorus.pdf

    • mllama4 says:

      I have never NOT felt absolutely and completely warmed up under Bob’s direction… he’s a master at warming up the choir! Your pdf link should also be a “MUST read” for any choral director!

  3. Pingback: warm ups: ear training | Goober Music Teachers

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