You would not lead a warm-up with professional singers. However, it is normal to spend roughly the first 10 minutes of a rehearsal leading a warm-up with an amateur or youth choir. This should be a very free and easy 10 minutes that relaxes the room and encourages a strong and healthy vocal sound. Here is a general structure that works well for a choral warm-up:
- 1.5 minutes – Posture: Get your choir standing up and lead some physical exercises to warm-up the choir energetically, followed by calm instructions to find a healthy posture. The language used is positive and about relaxing to find the most comfortable stance. We should try not to ask the choir to ‘DO’ anything – this will avoid the singers getting tense and standing still like statues, but instead will help them find a calm, poised and relaxed position.
Example warm-up – Posture
Energetic: Shake your right hand for 8 counts, then your left hand for 8 counts, then your right foot for 8 counts, and your left foot for 8 counts. Then do 4 counts each, then 2 counts, then 1 count for each.
Then calm: now let’s stand without our feet shoulder width apart, growing tall through our spine and the back of our head, we allow the chest to be open with our arms hanging loosely by our sides. We’ll gently roll our head back to look up at the ceiling, then roll back to centre. And we’ll roll our head down until our chin meets our chest, then roll back to centre so the head balances comfortably on the top of our spine.
- 1.5 minutes – Breathing: With posture sorted, try a gentle exercise to unlock deep and low breathing
Example warm-up – Breathing
We’ll breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out on a ‘Shh’ sound for 8 counts. Try to keep the ‘Shh’ sound consistent so it doesn’t wobble. Then we’ll breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out on a ‘Shh’ for 8 counts this time getting gradually louder- try to be at the end of your breath by 8 counts.
- 1 minute – Unpitched exercise: We start making vocal sounds with the choir but not using any pitch.
Example warm-up – Unpitched exercise
(In 4 beat rhythmic pattern) ‘Repeat after me: Shh, Shh, Shh, rest (Shh, Shh, Shh, rest). Tuh, Tuh, Tuh, rest (Tuh, Tuh, Tuh, rest) Puh, Puh, Puh, rest), Chuh, Chuh, Chuh rest (Chuh, Chuh, Chuh, rest).
- 3 minutes – Pitched exercise: We now do a couple of pitched vocal exercises.
Example warm-up – Pitched exercise
On an ‘Ooh’ we’ll slide up and down a 5th and then up and down an octave, starting on a C, repeating and going up a semitone each time.
- 3 minutes – Something light-hearted but brain engaging: This ends the warm-up on an energetic and positive note, but also gets everyone in the mood to concentrate by using a puzzling or challenging exercise.
Example warm-up – Something light-hearted
Start on a C, which will be number one, we sing up and down a major scale in this pattern using the numbers to correspond with the pitch of the scale.
1 2 1
1 2 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Make it harder now by asking the singers to clap on the number 3 each time instead of singing the number 3. Then stamp on 5, instead of singing the number 5