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Why is warming up so important?

1. Vocal health
a. The vocal folds are a muscle and require approximately 7 minutes of singing to
warm up (be filled with blood) enough for safe singing. It is very important to warm
up the vocal folds or you could cause damage to the muscle.
2. Correct singing technique
a. posture/alignment
b. breathing (motion and management)
c. phonation and registers (head and chest voice)
d. resonance (raised soft palate, lowered larynx, dropped jaw, sustained tone)
e. diction (articulation of vowels and consonants)
f. expression (phrasing and dramatic communication of the text)
3. Group sound/group awareness
a. Timbre
b. Blend
c. Balance
d. Intonation
e. Giving feedback to your choir so that they can all have the same sound
4. Focus
a. It is important for the group to be focused in order for them to be aware of how
they sound compared to everyone else as well as to ensure a productive rehearsal.

What should a good choral warm up encompass?

1. Physical warm up
a. In singing, your entire body is your instrument; this makes it important to do a
physical warm up before you even start to vocalise. There are two main reasons for
a physical warm up:
i. Stretching and enlivening the muscles/tissue responsible for breathing,
alignment, and vocal production to optimise coordination and range of
ii. Enhancing kinaesthetic awareness of your body and voice to help make a
transition from being a person engaged in normal life activities to being a
musical instrument.
b. The physical warm up is designed to remind choristers of the physical aspects of
correct singing technique (including things such as posture/alignment, breath
motion/management (remember, breathing is a physical process that involves the
diaphragm and intercostals muscles of the rib cage!), setting up resonance, and
diction (which requires the use of lips, teeth and tongue!)) as well as helping to
focus your choir on the task at hand.
c. A good physical warm up should include at least a few of the following (keep in mind
that you can pick and choose which exercises you do to keep things interesting or

you can use the same ones to create a comfortable and familiar
i. The active neutral stance this isnt a warm up, per say, but it is a stance
that engages the whole body and allows for deep breathing and free
movement. Feet should be shoulder-width/hip-width apart, your bottom
should be tucked under, your sternum should be elevated, knees should be
loose, head and neck should be in proper alignment (a good way to feel this
is to imaging that you are attached from the ceiling by a string attached to
the back of your head) and your weight should be tipped SLIGHTLY forward.
ii. Hamstring stretch prepares the legs and hips to support good alignment
and breathing. Make sure choristers have a balance between legs (i.e. not
collapsing into one hip or the other/keeping all your weight on one side or
another) and do not lock their knees
iii. Spinal roll stretches and strengthens the muscles of costal respiration and
improves lung capacity. Also improves awareness of how the ribs, spine, and
all related muscles coordinate and interact during breathing; exposes any
areas of tightness or imbalance. Feet shoulder width apart, relax your neck
and let your head hang, then roll down your spine so you end up flopped
over. Inhale deeply and slowly, feeling the stretch in your spine and back
ribs, then exhale and feel the movement throughout your back. Roll back up
(slowly) the head should be the last thing to come up.
iv. Back/shoulder massage improves upper body flexibility and alignment;
relieves tightness in the back and shoulders. Have choristers form lines and
massage the person in front of them, then turn around so you massage the
person who was behind you.
v. Shoulder rotation stretches the shoulder muscles. Roll the shoulders
forward, up and back a few times and then do it in reverse.
vi. Neck rotations stretch muscles of the cervical spine and improve
circulation to all structures in the neck. Focus attention on head/neck
alignment and exposes any tightness or muscular imbalance in this area.
Turn head to the left over a count of 8, back to centre over 8. Turn right over
a count of 8, back to centre over 8. Left ear to left shoulder over 8, back over
8. Right ear to right shoulder over 8, back over 8. Chin to chest over 8, back
up over 8.
vii. Jaw stretch improve jaw range of motion and flexibility and improve
awareness of jaw movement and position (want it to be nice and relaxed!).
Chewing gum can be a good exercise for this, also massaging the joints of
your jaw can be helpful to loosen and relax the muscles around the jaw.
viii. Yawning good stretch for the tissues that contribute to resonance,
including the soft palate and pharynx. Also stretches out your eardrums.
Improves awareness of your own potential internal expansion and
resonance space.
ix. Lifting the sternum lifting the sternum lifts the rib cage and allows more
room for your rib cage to expand when breathing. A good exercise for this is
the superman exercise Hand out to the front in superman pose (hands

out flat), spread so that they are on either side of your body, rotate your
arms so that your thumbs point to the ceiling then bring your arms down to
rest by your sides.
2. Vocal warm up
a. Vocal exercises are designed to gently and safely warm up the voice so that no
damage occurs to the vocal folds. They are also a chance to work on things such as
phonation and registers, resonance, diction, intonation, blend and balance. You can
also use this as a chance to work on difficult passages for pieces that you are
b. There are many and varied exercises for vocal warm up, but a few that I find helpful
i. Breathing exercises
13 shooshes essentially, take a large (silent) breath and then sh
(making sure to work the diaphragm!) to the pattern of: tika-tika
tika-tika tika-tika ta. Repeat as long as you like, on the last sh let all
of the air out.
Allow choristers to breath in (silently) over 4 counts, have them
make a tss sound for 12 (or 16) counts, then they get 2 counts to
breathe before the 12/16 counts, then 1 count to breathe before
the 12/16 counts, then half a count to breathe before the 12/16
counts. I find this better than just holding tss for as long as possible
as it gives choristers an achievable goal in mind and an aim for their
ii. Gentle vocal warm ups
Siren slide up the vocal range to an ah vowel and slide back down
to an ooh vowel. You can also bubble (bubbling the lips) or rrr
(rolling the tongue) this exercise.
Follow the solfege leader signs the solfege, the choir hums it. From
humming you can progress to vowel sounds, bubbling or singing it in
solfege. This works on correct singing technique as well as group
Vowels give the choir a chord (usually chord I), and have them sing
smoothly through the vowels [i], [e], [], [a], [], [o], [u] on the same
note before moving up or down a semitone (this is IPA language,
essentially it is ee, air, eh, ah, or (as in orange), oh and oo
(like a hooty owl). Exercises like this can help with correct singing
technique as well as group sound (ie making sure everyone has the
same timbre and balance and helping to create a blend).
Arpeggio singing an arpeggio (d, m, s, dI, t, dI, rI, dI, t, l, s, f, m, r, d,
d, di (which is new d)) to the pattern: ta-a ta ta, ta-a-a ti-ti, ti-ti ti-ti
ti-ti ti-ti, ta ta ta-a. This can be sung to bella signora (which works
on vowels) or Pizza is great, cant believe how many pieces that I
ate. This works on correct singing technique and group sound
(including intonation).

Solfege scale singing up the scale (d, d r d, d r m r d, etc) and then

back down the scale (dI, dI t dI, dI t l t dI, etc.). This can also be done
to scale degree numbers (1, 1 2 1, 1 2 3 2 1, etc.). This can be used
to teach children the major/minor scales (provided you start on l) as
well as pentatonic scales (missing out f andt or 4 and 7). This
exercise works on correct singing technique, group sound and group
focus and awareness.
Singing a simple song (e.g. This Old Man) and moving up/down
chromatically. This helps with correct singing technique, group
sound and group focus especially if you do things such as alter how
you conduct it. Some good songs to use for this exercise include This
Old Man; Eliza Jane; Rocky Mountain; Going round the mountain;
Leila; Michael Finigan; Dinah; and Drunken Sailor.

3. Musical warm up
a. The purpose of the musical warm up is to help focus the choir on group sound as
well as group awareness.
b. Again, there are many and varied musical warm ups, but some that I favour include:
i. Altering your conducting
This can be applied to most vocal exercises and is good for group
focus and sound. Alter your conducting and get your choir to follow
Things you can try:
a. Articulation: legato, staccato
b. Tempo: speed up, slow down, stop in random places
c. Timbre ask them to alter how they sound (e.g. ask them to
sing very classically (a far back sound) and then very nasally
(a very forward sound) and then try to find a middle
ii. Rounds rounds are excellent ways of developing focus within the choral
warm up as you must focus on holding your part as well as making sure you
are in tune/ in time with other parts and keeping an eye on the conductor.
Altering your conducting can help the choir focus and help develop group
Some good rounds to use include: Ah, poor bird; Frere Jacques; The
Ghost of Tom; The Tallis Canon; Babylon; Ally-O; Pop; Ive been to
Harlem; Hey Ho, nobody home; Nice but naughty thoughts; Mon
coq est mort; Wilt thou lend me thy mare; What a queer bird; Bella
mama; and When I sing.
iii. Church this exercise is all about keeping in tune within your own section as
well as with the other sections of the choir. Essentially, you will have your
choir sing the chord progression I, I (suspended), IV (IVc), ii7, ii, II (which
becomes the new chord I) on any vowel or sound of your choosing. This is
what each part does:


dI (8)
m (3)
s (5)
d (1)

dI (8)
f (4)
s (5)
d (1)

dI (8)
f (4)
l (6)
d (1)

dI (8)
f (4)
l (6)
r (2)

rI (9)
f (4)
l (6)
r (2)

rI (9)
fi (#4)
l (6)
r (2)

Each repeated note is held. A part doesnt move until the conductor directs
them to. As II becomes the new I, you can continue moving upwards to
warm up the extremities of the range. You can then go back down to the
lower extremities of the range by having voices move in the reverse order
(ie altos, then sopranos, then basses, then tenors, then altos).
iv. Aquarius this exercise is about keeping in tune within your own section as
well as with the other sections of the choir and watching the conductor for
instruction. Each part comes in when the conductor indicates.

Simple songs: