We all know that practising scales is great for improving pitch, flexibility and range. They can also be incredibly boring! Here are five ways to put the fun back into scales.
Five-note scales with dramatic slides
Starting in the low to middle vocal range, sing a 5 note scale up and down (1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1) followed by a dramatic slide from 1-5-1. Encourage your singers to find their inner diva and create drama and volume to the slide. After each scale and slide move up a semitone and repeat.
You can sing these scales on any vowel sound you like, with or without consonants. Make sure that throughout this exercise your singers maintain good posture, breath support and bright faces to aid good pitch.
Nine-note staggered scales
Ask everyone to sing up and down a nine note scale (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) starting in their low to middle range. You can ask to sing the note numbers, or use a vowel sound.
Once they are happy with this and are all singing in time with your instruction, split the choir into three groups. Start the first group off singing the scale and bring the second group in as the first group sing 3. Then bring the third group in as the second group sing 3.
‘Hum-ah’ five-note scales and slide
These are great for fine-tuning your singers’ ears. Choose a starting note, hum on this note for two beats then sing ‘ah’ on the same note for a further two beats. Now go up and down a five-note scale (1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1) to ‘ah’, followed by a fifth slide (1-5-1). The whole pattern is therefore hum(2 beats), ah(2 beats), five note scale, fifth slide.
Once your choir are happy doing this try alternating major and minor thirds in the sequence. This will get your singers thinking about how major and minor thirds sound and their relationship to the other notes in the scale.
1-5 scales – double and triple
This exercise works on scales and breathing. Start by singing a simple five-note scale up and down (1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1). Then double this up. Check your singers are happy doing this in one breath. Then try a triple five-note scale.
You can leave it at this and work up or down the scale a semitone at a time. Alternatively, you can add some variations such as running up five-note scales followed by a full octave. My favourite challenge for my singers is a five-note scale followed by an arpeggio (1-3-5-3-1) and then a nine-note scale (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1). This can be done in one breath but if your singers need a breath, they can take it before the nine note scale.
Octave scales with a ‘drone’
Split your choir into two groups. Starting on a note in their low to middle range, ask one group to hold a tonic note (ie the number 1 note) while the other group runs up and down an octave scale. Make sure that everyone is stood with good posture, bright faces and that they are breathing well to support the notes. Try this a few times swapping over the groups each turn so that everyone gets plenty of chances to hold the steady tone.
For more information and ideas about teaching fundamental musical skills to your choir in a fun and engaging way check out our Community Choir Essentials ebooks.