How to create variations on your favourite choir warm-ups

It can be challenging to come up with fresh, exciting warm-ups week after week. With a little imagination, however, we can create our own variations on some of our favourite exercises to add a fun twist and keep our singers on their toes. These variations can also help develop simple exercises into something more challenging for singers to broaden their skills.

Here are some examples of variations on basic exercises :

1-3-5 harmony

Split your choir into three sections, these can be their vocal sections or just random mixed groups. Give each group a note either 1, 3 or 5. get the choir singing these harmony notes bringing in the first section, then the third and finally the fifth then work up the scale a semitone at a time.

Variation 1 - Alternate between major and minor thirds giving the choir a further pitch challenge on top of the existing harmony. Make sure everyone gets a turn at pitching the thirds by alternating which group sings which notes.

Variation 2 - Add in a further blend challenge by selecting one note of the three to be the main melody with the other two parts sitting behind this. Alternate which is the main melody so that everyone gets a turn. The main melody part should be louder than the other two which should blend together behind it.

Placement exercise

Choose a note in easy range for your singers and ask them to sing 'ma, may, me, mo, moo' on that same note. Ask them to focus on placing the sound right at the front of the mouth rather than further back in the throat so that the sound has clarity. Work up a semitone after each rendition to also include work on range.

Variation 1 - Split your singers into three groups. Working on the 1-3-5 principle allocate each group a note. The singers must say the last word of the exercise 'moo' on this note. Group 1 would then stay on the same note for 'moo' while groups 3 and 5 must sing 'moo' on the third and fifth notes of the scale creating lovely three-part harmony. To challenge your singers further, the note you sing the phrase on could be the third note or the fifth.

Variation 2 - Practice dynamic and speed changes with your choir by singing this exercise on repeat moving up or down a semitone after each rendition. Conduct your choir and vary the speed and also how loud of softly you require the choir to sing. This is great practice for your choir to observe their conductor.

Creating your own variations

In order to create variations of your own take time to think about the warm-ups you do with your choir, perhaps looking back over some rehearsal plans. Jot down the core exercises you use and which ones prove most popular with your singers. Then think about those areas which are worked on by doing the exercises such as breath control, range or posture. Perhaps your variations could include some additonal elements which work on other areas. For example, a simple five-note scale used in range building could be doubled or tripled in length to incorporate breath work. By thinking outside the box you'll be amazed at the alternatives you can come up with and your singers will enjoy the variation.
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