sound. Interval leaps should not exceed the fifth and transpositions should not extend the range of an octave. Several initial warm-ups include the following:
Warm-Ups For Choral Ensembles:
Why Bother? By Billy Baker
New Jersey City University firstname.lastname@example.org
The descending half notes should imitate a sigh and the eighth note pattern may be used to assist singers in bridging the break be- tween register changes of the voice. You may choose to begin the warm-up with a voiced consonant or an aspirate “h.”
warm-up in singing is related to that of any other physical activity: to tone up the mus- cles and improve coordination; in short, to exercise the voice. Singing is a physical ac- tivity; the muscles must be “loosened-up” to ensure maximum vocal efficiency during a rehearsal or performance. It would be un- fathomable for an athlete to begin a prac- tice session without some type of stretching and warm-up activity; the same is true of the choral rehearsal. A carefully planned and efficiently executed warm-up period is a necessity if the continuous musical growth and vocal development of the choral ensem- ble is to be assured.
W The purposes of warm-ups are to ex-
ercise the voice and promote good sing- ing. The objective is not to push the voice to the limits of pitch and dynamics so that every singer will be strained during the re- hearsal. It is rather, a time for the singers to focus on their identity in the ensemble, to develop appropriate singing habits, and to listen “across the ensemble” for balance and blend. It is also an opportunity for the con- ductor to nurture a sense of esprit de corps and unity.
The warm-up period should accom-
plish the following goals: Establish good posture; establish basic principles of vocal production; improve upon basic musician- ship skills; correct errors of vocal technique; and prepare the singing voice for extended use. Every exercise used during the warm- up period must be carefully planned and de- signed to facilitate the musical growth of the ensemble. These vocalizes may incorporate rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic elements from the music that is being rehearsed. One
arm-ups are vital to the suc- cess of any performance en- semble. One purpose of the
exercise may be related to a specific reper- toire problem while another warm-up may be used to improve upon technical skills such as articulation or resonation. Conductors should avoid repeat- ing the same exercises for each rehearsal. This mundane practice discourages critical thinking and listening skills. While it may be advantageous to employ a steady cycle of tone development activities, variation of warm-ups will assist the conductor in main- taining singer focus and interest. Exercises may also be practiced at various points in the rehearsal. Singers may need to reorient themselves to appropriate tuning, listening, and balancing within the ensemble context. Vocalization “interruptions” may be pro- ductive in refocusing the ensemble. Appropriate modeling of warm-ups is
an important aspect of the procedure. Much of the coordination that exists in any activity is the result of imitating as precisely as pos- sible the same action which previously was successful. An “imitative” routine has be- come intuitive based upon certain physical experiences since infancy. Physical actions have become drilled until they are reflexes. Many of the technical aspects of singing may be channeled in the same manner. A sequential approach to warming up might include preliminary, initial, and voice building exercises. Additionally, exercises that reflect difficult melodic intervals or passages in the performance repertoire may be created to promote transfer. While sight singing is an important component of many choral rehearsals, it should not be practiced before warming up, nor should it be con- sidered as an alternative to the warm-up exercises.
The purpose of the preliminary warm- up is to engage students in the rehearsal process and prepare them to sing. These ex- ercises are not pitched in a specific key and they should be brief: Yawning – Make the yawn a conscious
act. The chest, throat, nose, and mouth are open to air and the velum (soft palate) is raised. Students should gently place their fingers on the larynx and notice that it de- scends. They should feel relaxed and yawn as quietly as possible. • Flower sigh – Students should smell an imaginary flower and then sigh from the upper part of the vocal register. The “oo” [u] vowel is best to use first.
• Siren – Students should mimic a siren in the upper register with three ascending glissandi and release the third ascent with a relaxed sigh.
• Unvoiced lip trills – Unvoiced lip trills relax the facial muscles, engage breath support, and gently initialize vocal fold vibration. To produce a lip trill, force air between relaxed lips. The lips are the only noticeably vibrating facial feature.
• Voiced lip trills – A voiced lip trill uses gentle vocal fold vibration to create sound. Begin the lip trill on a mid- range pitch and gently slide the voice down to a low sounding pitch (less than an octave).
Initial Warm-Ups All initial warm-ups should begin in
a comfortable tessitura and move down by half steps. This movement allows the vocal folds to warm up without undue strain. It is important to cease the downward move- ment before students lose core quality of
24 MAY 2012 Voice Building Warm-Up 2 Initial Warm-Up 2: Initial Warm-Up 1:
Concentration should be placed on pure vowels with a bright to
dark placement. The lips should remain puckered with the “ee” vow- el. This warm-up is also designed to extend the range of the singer’s voice. Proper breath support is critical for the correct execution of this exercise, particularly in the ascending pitches. The intervallic shifts of ascending fourths to descending thirds may also pose a challenge.
Voice Building Wam-Up 3:
This challenging warm-up exceeds an octave and may be used to extend the range of the voice. Breath support must be maintained and singers should be encouraged to place their hands on the ab- dominal muscles to feel the “bumping” sixteenth note passages.
This exercise should be used to brighten the darker “ah” vowel
sound. However students should be careful not to spread the “ee” vowel horizontally. The “ah” perfect fifth descent should be sung as a glissando. Once again, voiced consonants may be employed.
Initial Warm-Up 3:
Repertoire Application Exercises that reflect difficult melodic intervals or passages in the
performance repertoire may be practiced during the voice building period of the rehearsal. For example, the following slightly altered passage from Handel’s “Sing Unto God” may be transposed during the warm-up procedure to focus on breath support through melis- matic passages typical of the Baroque era and tonal sequences of as- cending fourths:
The transition from staccato to legato is the focus of this exercise and these two forms of articulation may be alternated. The staccato passages should emphasize proper breath support with a “bumpy” feeling in the abdominal musculature and the legato phrases should emphasize support through the line with a strict adherence to tempo.
Voice Building Exercises Voice building exercises may extend the octave. These warm-ups
are usually more challenging than initial warm-ups and may encour- age singers to “stretch” beyond their comfortable tessitura in extend- ing range capabilities. It is critical for the conductor not to over exert the choir and strident singing should not be permitted. Several voice building warm-ups include the following:
Voice Building Warm-Up 1:
Preparation is the key! While it may seem more time efficient to “warm-up” with famil-
iar repertoire, the long term benefits of exercising the vocal mecha- nism with preliminary, initial, and voice building activities include a healthier model for your students. The development of tone, resonance, and overall musicianship are integral components of the warm-up process. These concepts should be introduced during the warm-up routine and reinforced throughout the rehearsal. Prepara- tion and execution of warm-ups should go beyond simple vocalizing and encourage a comprehensive musicianship approach. This prac- tice will result in a productive and pedagogically sound rehearsal.
References The closed “ng” should resonate throughout before propelling
the “ee” vowel forward. Singers should also be careful not to let the “ee” vowel spread horizontally, but continue the resonation with a raised velum (soft palate). This warm-up should be legato and free of any pulsing of the beat.
Baker, Billy, Jeffrey Beyers, Linda Matukaitis, John Pusateri, & Alyson K. Shirk. Effective Choral Instruction: Grades 9-12, Baltimore County Public Schools Curriculum Guide, Towson, MD, 2004.
Holt, M. & Jordan, J. (2008). The School Choral Program. Chicago: GIA Publications.
Lamb, G. H. (1988). Choral Techniques. Dubuque, Iowa: William C. Brown Publishers.
Ware, Clifton. Basics of Vocal Pedagogy: The Foundations and Process of
Singing. Boston: McGraw Hill, 1998. Billy Baker is Assistant Professor of Music Education at New Jersey City University
and Director of the New Jersey Youth Chorus Young Men’s Ensemble. He received his BM in Music Education from East Carolina University, his MM in Choral Conducting from Michigan State University, and his PhD in Music Education from Florida State University.
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