*Paraphrased and Excerpted from Voices in Harmony: Youth Choir Leadership, Education, and Artistry, By Robyn Lana
Warm-ups can be one of the most important and integral parts of a rehearsal. Warm-ups provide a myriad of benefits for singers allowing them to find their focus and prepare their body/instrument for singing. They also provide a space where singers can learn healthy vocal techniques while building skills as an ensemble. Most importantly, warm-ups allow the conductor to set the tone of the rehearsal and, from the onset, construct an environment where members of the choir feel comfortable singing and receiving feedback.
There is no singular, correct way to run through warm-ups, but consistency is key. Keeping a constant order and structure provides singers with a routine in which to get engaged and focus for the upcoming rehearsal. Whatever order you choose or techniques to focus on, here are some essential components to include in any warm-up regiment.
- Physical/mental: Help bring focus and relaxation into the rehearsal with physical stretching, shoulder & neck rolls, or even allowing students to give each other shoulder/back rubs (depending on age). Stimulate the singers’ brain with rhythmic or Solfège memory games to help keep the singers alert. Mental activities can also be used as transitions throughout the rehearsal to keep singers engaged.
- Breath: Warm-ups provide an excellent platform to teach proper breathing techniques. Focusing on proper breathing from the start will save time in the long run because singers will produce healthy and rich tone instead of breathy, weak tone.
- Tone/vowels: Good tone is invariably linked to vowel placement. Teach singers about the bodily components that form vowels such as tongue placement and the soft palate by incorporating exercises that encourage proper formations.
- Range/flexibility: Exercises honed-in on range tend to be where singers zone out. Find an exercise you like, and incorporate ways to vary it using different tempo and diction.
- Tuning: Chord building is an excellent warm-up to practice tuning. Exploring chord inversions, not forgetting augmented and diminished chords, keeps singer’s ears engaged while listening to their own section as well as the other sections within the choir.
- Diction: Diction warm-ups allow singers to concentrate on the text of a piece encouraging forward placement bringing a brightness and resonance to the tone. This will also bring clarity to the text.
- Phrasing: Phrasing can be practiced during any warm-up, but if specifically focused on rounds are an excellent way for singers to listen to each other while also singing something fun and engaging.
The content of this article (written by Joshua Pedde) is from Voices in Harmony, a book by Robyn Lana, nationally recognized clinician and Founding Artistic Director of the Cincinnati Children’s Choir. In this book, Robyn shares valuable insights and advice along with practical tips for creating successful youth and children’s ensembles. With topics including rehearsal techniques, recruitment and retention, comprehensive musicianship through performance, building community through a safe environment, and many more, this compilation should have a place on every conductor’s bookshelf.