Warming up before singing- a boring and tedious chore? It shouldn't be. Warming up can be fun and an important ritual in each choir rehearsal! In order to achieve a good start before rehearsing, however, every singer or choirmaster requires a good treasure of basic warm-up exercises. Warming up - the manual shows a variety of solo and polyphonic exercises and examples of diaphragmatic activation, as well as basic information on breathing techniques. An additional collection of simple canons and short songs makes the collective warm up a fun part of each rehearsal. In addition to that, a number of practical tips that go far beyond the initial phase of a choir rehearsal are provided. This book is aimed at choir directors, choir singers and soloists who want to use more than just scale exercises during rehearsals.
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Why you should warm-up
Warm-ups for the body and rhythm
Practical advice: Rhythmic problems
Short breathing theory
Practical advice: What does it mean to slide up to a note?
Practical advice: How can images influence our singing?
Practical advice: Scat singing
Practical advice: Commercial jingles
Piano or no piano? A question of tuning
Practical advice: Diaphragmatic activation
Sound and vocal exercises
Changing tones chromatically – a simple exercise
Polyphonic sound exercises
All about your standing
Pronunciation makes the difference
Call and Response, printed notes or Multimedia?
Simple popular folk songs
Practical advice: How to give folk songs a modern twist
Generic warm-up sequences
Possible warm-up: sequence 1
Possible warm-up: sequence 2
Possible warm-up: sequence 3
Warm-up before a performance
Protect your voice
What do professionals think of warming up?
Warming up must be fun and motivational for the next choir rehearsal.
W e all know it, we all do it, but for most of us, it's just an annoying matter of duty of each weekly choir rehearsal: having to warm-up before the actual start of the choir rehearsal. Apropos, it's the same for singers and choir director.
This does not mean that annoying obligations can't be fun. Actually, there are countless variations and funny little songs that are easy to enjoy and can even increase motivation.
Anyhow, warming up can only be fun and enjoyable if we know why or how we have to do it and if we dispose sufficient exercises and variations, which can render the start of the rehearsal diversified.
In current literature, it's quite common to read that one can tell a good choir and a good choirmaster from the warm-up. Warm-ups should work towards the rehearsal, take pressure from certain passages, and match later parts. For professional choirs, that may be true, but for the many thousands of recreational and amateur choirs that characterize the majority of the choir scene, however, this is completely unrealistic. First of all, most choir directors work part-time, have another job, or do not have enough time to meticulously prepare each rehearsal, and second, warming up would actually become an annoying and boring duty.
This is where this book starts. The book is compiled from practice for practice and, particularly, intended for recreational choirs. It's not about conveying deep voice training. It should, rather, show different ways of organizing warm-ups. Technical terms are, therefore, largely unnecessary. Warming up should be fun. That's why many fun and intense exercises are added to the work. Of course, classic exercises shouldn't be missed, but they should and must be agreeable to the choir and the choirmaster. Consider this book as support and inspiration, not as a mere manual. Change all exercises, so they can fit your choir. Diversify, try to have courage to implement your own ideas.
Last but not least, a small note: For the sake of legibility and clarity, only the masculine form is used in this book. So if choral conductors or singers are mentioned, as a matter of course, all women are included.
Benedikt Lorse Gerolstein, May 2015
Consideration: All composite chord symbols in this book correspond to the international system (American model), which means that the German H is noted as B, and the B as Bb.
W arming up before the beginning of a rehearsal has various goals; three of which should be discussed in detail. However, the meaning and the importance of the various goals vary from choir to choir and can't be described as standard.
a) Warming up as a starting ritual
Very important points in any group dynamic are rituals and routine. Especially in a choir, which often stands in a big contrast to daily routine, it is absolutely necessary to create a certain attunement. Choir rehearsals often take place in the evenings on workdays because of practical reasons. Therefore, they are usually preceded by a stressful day of work or other duties of everyday life. As an example, we could take a family man, who left home in the morning to get to his job in the company he works for, who spent the day in meetings or talking to clients, picked up his children after work, shortly discussed the holiday arrangements with his wife, and then rushed to the choir rehearsal. It is understandable that this man might need a smooth transition before having to focus for two hours straight on a possibly complicated choir performance. This often happens to many singers. Warming up covers this transition. It's all about creating that certain ambiance that helps choir members to focus on their task. Following these reflections, an effective warm-up should be organized. Start with something very calm and quiet, i.e. with breathing exercises.
Hum for a little bit and slowly increase the intensity. When the singers have reached a calm state of mind and are ready to focus on the following tasks, you can start with the actual rehearsal.
b) Warm-up to prepare
Far more often, warming up is understood as simple preparation. The voice, the vocal cords, and the entire vocal tract can be seen as a large muscle that needs to be activated slowly and gently before having to work hard. Any athlete knows, before the actual training, warming up is necessary in order to prepare the muscles, prevent injury, and get ready for the coming burden. No one would do a 100 m sprint or similar exercises without previous preparation. The same can be applied to the voice. Light, simple exercises, therefore, are well-suited to prepare the voice for the coming tasks.
c) Warming up as voice training
In literature, the voice formation function of warming up is the most described. Accordingly, in the first phase, phonation is mainly operated. Voice training means teaching vocal techniques, facts about the vocal tract, and forms of an individual choir sound. Since most people have their own intrinsic concept of voice and singing, which has crystallized over many years in everyday life, it is very costly and time-consuming to change these ideas and to shape the voice. Therefore, a lot of time is needed to produce a noticeable change in sound by voice training. Therefore, it is necessary to regularly complete units on this aspect, at best, at every rehearsal. The phonation aspect can only be transferred with difficulty to all choirs, because basic requirements are needed and not every choir can meet them. The choirmaster has to have some experience in the field if he wants to carry out these units, and he should have great knowledge on vocal techniques and the appropriate didactics. Very few choirs can afford a private vocal coach or singing teacher.
Anyhow, phonation isn't only necessary to overcome every day concepts of voice and singing, but also to create a unified choral sound. A common question is whether choir and solo singers differ. Many vocal coaches negate this, and technically, they are right. The vocal techniques are the same, in a choir or as a soloist. There are many techniques and tricks you can learn in order to achieve a firm, clear voice with a large scale. This doesn't depend on the form of singing. However, choral singing goes one step further. A choir should be mostly perceived as an overall sound, where individual voices blend. However, this can only be achieved if all singers can rely on the same concepts and attitudes. That's why choral vocal training is necessary, since it fulfils this objective. A good example is different vocal colours. Each vowel can resound open or closed, light or dark. Different vowel colours can directly cause intonation problems and other kinds of interference. Therefore, it is very important to find a common attitude in any kind of choral vocal training; vocal and sound exercises are ideal for this purpose.
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