Adding a good warm-up session at the beginning of your rehearsal can really help to focus your singers. By creating a well balanced selection of exercises you will ensure variety as well as working on different skills which will help your singers develop their voices and in turn also improve on aspects of their repertoire. Warm-ups are also great for bringing your singers together as a team developing their sound and relationships with each other.
So how do you go about ensuring you have a good balance of exercises for each rehearsal? Here are some top tips:
Keep a complete list
As a choir leader running rehearsals each week it's a good idea to have a list of all the warm-ups and exercises you have at your disposal. This will help you to remember them and save time when selecting activities during rehearsal planning. Ideally these will be stored on a computer document making it easy to update them and add any additional exercises you come across. You can also place notes against the warm-ups reminding yourself of the best way to organise the activity, additional variations you could try and anything to avoid.
Look at the benefits of each exercise
By categorising your warm-up exercises you will start to create a 'pick and mix' format from which you can select items each week. Look through the warm-ups you have and decide what they offer, for example they might assist breathing, range building, resonance, pitch or articulation. Many exercises will work on multiple areas all in one go. Store your warm-up master list in categories so it's easier for you to select a mixture each time.
Make sure it flows
It's always a good idea to think of things from your singer's point of view. How should the warm-up session progress so that the voice is gradually warmed up? For example, if you launch into an intense and complicated exercise straight away, it may throw your singers and prove too much of a challenge or too sudden a transition from their daily activities into singing. Far better to start with some gentle stretches and relaxation followed by some range building before moving on to anything more complicated or demanding. Decide as you plan your rehearsal what you want to work on, there may be the standard techniques such as breathing and range which need continual work but there may also be things you want to throw in as they relate to a particular piece of repertoire. For example, you may be trying a different style of music which has it's own unique techniques or a different language. Exercises working on these aspects will help introduce new themes and help to make them more authentic in the practice and performance of the repertoire.
Avoid continuous repetition
If the programme of events week to week is exactly the same your singers may get bored, worse they may even start coming in a little late as they know they won't miss out on anything new! Try and ensure continued variation of exercises for your choir. By having a list of all your exercises, you can then select different ones for rehearsal. You might have five breathing exercises so alternate these, the more diversity you offer, the more your singers and yourself will feel motivated and engaged. There may be some exceptions such as if you have a warm-up exercise you want to chart the improvement of with your choir. In this instance repeating it over a few rehearsals will be beneficial. Make sure you share this with the choir setting them a challenge to improve the exercise.
End on a high
Some of the exercises you carry out for warming up will be gentle, some more demanding. Whatever the combination, try to ensure that you finish with something fun which promotes teambuilding among your singers. This may be a quirky round, a simple song where certain words are replaced by claps or stomps or a really fast tongue twister. Teambuilding exercises get everyone working together, help to relax singers as they often involve a little giggle and lead nicely into repertoire rehearsal.