TCR029 | PODCAST – Our best choir breathing exercises


In this episode, we talk about the importance of breathing to our choirs and discuss some of the exercises and warm-ups we use with our singers to promote good breathing.



    Victoria Hopkins

    Victoria is a founder and director of Total Choir Resources. She leads Total Voice Chamber Choir in the UK.

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    Brian Smith - 5 years ago Reply

    There are two types of wrong note: somebody else’s and no one’s.

    Somebody else’s means they are being captured by another singer’s note. No one’s note means a singer is out of key.

    The latter is difficult to fix quickly and probably best not tackled in a “public” rehearsal. A quiet word is probably called for after rehearsal is over. But do remember,we all have off days when we wake up with tin ears and brass throats.

    The second can be addressed by taking the piece more slowly so singers have a chance to “hear” the note they are to sing, by getting the dominant singer to sing quietly and, if they can, after the beat, so the singer that’s being led astray gets a chance to “get in” first.

    Singing each part as melody, as a tune to be learned, helps. Removing other issues like text and rhythm from the equation, freeing the brain up to concentrate solely on pitch, also helps.

    Otherwise, move on and come back to it. Don’t let it become a “thing”.

      Victoria Hopkins - 5 years ago Reply

      HI Brian, thanks for those suggestions. I particularly like the idea of removing textual and rhythmic distractions to concentrate solely on pitch.

    Hannah - 5 years ago Reply


    Love this! It’s very helpful.
    Any chance you have these ideas written down somewhere? I can read faster than I can listen :-)


      Victoria Hopkins - 5 years ago Reply

      That’s a very good point Hannah. We’ll look at doing a text version in the near future.

    Louise - 5 years ago Reply

    Delighted I found this website. Thanks for all the advice. I teach several choirs and it’s very useful. Maybe a topic could be started on Sara’s issue, or an article done?

      Victoria Hopkins - 5 years ago Reply

      That’s a great idea, Louise. Thanks.

    Sara - 5 years ago Reply

    Really enjoyed this article, full of very informative, useful, practical advice.

    Wondered whether you might be able to advise on how to deal with wonderful, enthusiastic, but unable-to-maintain-their part singers. I attempt three part material, but it invariably ends up as two part. Should I just cave and stick to two part material? They seem to get it when I teach them separately, but fall apart when the others join in.

    Any advice? Don’t want to dampen their spirits.

    Many thanks, am enjoying all your content, finding it invaluable to have your knowledge and support.

      Victoria Hopkins - 5 years ago Reply

      Hi Sara. Glad you like the site. I don’t think you should give up with three part material, but I would be very selective. Are you arranging the songs yourself?

        Rob Cross - 5 years ago Reply

        This site is great and thank you for the informative material.

        For Sara, I’d agree with Victoria and say that you should stick with the three part material, even if it is a big challenge.
        How difficult are the arrangements? If you’re not arranging them yourself, you could try to make the arrangement a little easier.

        I’m sure you might be doing something similar but, one thing I would do is really “build it up” in the rehearsal; start with one part, make sure it is solid, add in the second part (first on their own and then with part one “humming” perhaps), get two parts solid and then continue to add the third (with part one “humming” and then part two “humming” with them) etc.
        Something like – Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 1 & 2 / Part 3 / Part 1 & 3 / Part 2 & 3 / Part 1 & 2 & 3

        However … the girls might have a different / better idea!

        Also, are you able to record their parts for them and send it to them so that they can practice at home? I’ve found this to be quite useful for some groups but it does depend on how keen they are to spend their free time on extra practice :)

          Victoria Hopkins - 5 years ago Reply

          Great suggestions Rob. In our contemporary choir, Christine and I have found that leading notes are critical, so when we’re arranging pop songs, we’re very conscious of where the singers are going to “get their note”, whether it’s from the accompaniment or another section, or from what they’ve just sung.

          If they’re pitching an entry from what someone else is singing, we might have them sing or hum the other part in rehearsal so that they can the idea that one part is leading into another.

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