Freshen up your choir warm-ups

Coming up with ideas for choir warm-ups week after week can be something of a challenge. You want your choir to develop their singing skills, and repetition is a necessary part of that, but if you find your singers doing warm-ups before you’ve even instructed them too, maybe things are getting a little predictable!

So how can you ensure your warm-up sessions are varied and interesting for your choir without spending hours each week coming up with new ideas? Here are some top tips for a little warm-up spring clean.

Create an archive

Its worth taking the time to record all the warm-ups you know and like on one document or in one audio track or folder. You might think you’ll remember ideas and exercises, but it’s very difficult to hold all these things in your head and recall them when you need to, particularly as you build up your library. If you have a central ‘pool’ of warm-ups, you can refer to it when planning your rehearsals and see all the options available to you. You may find it helpful to make notes next to the entries – what does the exercise help with? How is it best organised? Are there any fun variations? Once you have your list you can also look through it and see if you can come up with fresh variations or new ideas which you can note down and use at a later date.

Try the pick ‘n’ mix method

Take a look at the warm-ups you use. What do they help your singers with? It might be breath support, relaxation, working on the range or team-building. It may be a mixture of several things.

By putting the warm-ups you have in similar categories, you can ensure that your rehearsal plan covers all the important aspects of readying the voice to sing, as well as physically warming up and bringing the choir together to work as a team. You will also ensure variety for your choir. If you arrange your main list in this way, you have a host of options and you can pick something from each section, varying the line-up on a weekly basis.

Take your choir by surprise

The simple act of changing the first thing you do in a rehearsal can really freshen things up and get your choir’s attention. If you always start with shoulder rolls and gentle stretching, why not instead ask everyone to sing a silly song and add actions. Or perhaps get everyone to massage their cheeks and blow a big raspberry! Anything that gets their attention, livens things up and helps them focus and get ready to sing.

Let them in on the secret

If there are exercises you want to work on with your choir that you think will really help them improve the repertoire they’re rehearsing, mention that. Relating the warm-ups to your repertoire can be really helpful and tie everything together, particularly if you have members who don’t understand the point of warm-up exercises. Many of the keen members who really want to improve their singing skills will really appreciate this careful consideration and planning of exercises and get more out of them.

Put yourself in their shoes

As choir leaders, we naturally see rehearsals and warm-ups from our point of view. Try to take a moment to think about them from a choir member’s perspective. What would you find enjoyable and interesting? What would be a good challenge to develop your skills? What would make you feel inspired and very glad you left the comfort of your home for the evening? If you take this into account and have a good range of warm-ups at your disposal you’ll be sure to get your rehearsals off to a flying start.

Comments on Freshen up your choir warm-ups

  1. Avatar Catherine says:

    Great information – thank you. Some useful ideas. I am very fortunate and am MD and accompanist for 2 wonderful choirs. It’s wonderful to be able to tap into ideas suggested by professionals.
    With warm-ups I nearly always add one thing that it appropriate to the repertoire being rehearsed during the rehearsal – eg. swung rhythm scales, specific intervals, awkward words, lengths of notes at ends of phrases etc
    Yesterday we sang 1 – 12 at the pace of a piece we were rehearsing to reassure everyone that they can sing 4 bars of triple time in one breath (and then the challenge was to hold the ‘12’ on as long as possible) It worked a treat and the piece was so much better for it!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Catherine, some great ideas, thanks for sharing them. I’m pleased you found the article helpful. :)

  2. Avatar Michael says:

    Fantastic article. THANKS VERY MUCH. You have so much wisdom to offer the choir world.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Michael, that’s very kind of you, glad to hear you found the article helpful. :)

  3. Thanks for your great suggestions, Christine and Victoria,

    I always find planning the warmups the hardest part of any rehearsal schedule. I try to do something different every time and, having done almost 200 sessions with my choir, that can become quite challenging.

    For a while now I have been creating an archive of warmup elements on colour-coded index cards (old school style!) with different colours for physical, vocal, range building, team bonding, rounds, etc. It makes such a difference getting all the ideas out of my head and onto paper and the colours certainly makes the pick and mix approach a lot easier.

    Thanks again for your excellent resources.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Simon, thanks for your message, I’m really pleased to hear you found our suggestions helpful. It sounds like you have put a great archive together to help you create varied and interesting warm-up plans. :)

  4. Avatar Jared Garthoff says:

    This is awesome! Thank you so much! Have you thought of making an app for Ipad/Iphone, Android/Tablets so we can read articles on the go or even download resources?

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Jared, really glad you have found the article helpful. You’ve got me thinking now about apps!

  5. Avatar margaret barnard says:

    good information thank you

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Margaret

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