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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Favorite Warm-ups for Children's Choir

With limited rehearsal time, finding warm-ups that 1) can be learned quickly, 2) are actually effective in warming up the voice, 3) teach important skills or concepts, 4) are easy enough for very beginning young singers, and 5) aren't boring for the students can be a real challenge! Over the years I've settled on a few favorites that I love for beginning choirs (3rd grade - 5th grade or so) that I wanted to share with you today.


1. The Counting Game

I'm always surprised at how difficult this warm-up is! This one is great for getting brains focused, expanding range and, if you get to the extension warm-up, working on part work.


I'm sure you get the idea. For beginning choirs, I start with just "Part I", working in different keys to expand range, for at least a few months. Eventually we work on Part II, which is of course much harder since they're counting backwards. I extend this with my more experienced groups by having half of the group sing each part simultaneously. Of course you can also do this with solfege instead of numbers!

2. Many Mumbling Mice

I'm not even kidding, I start playing the accompaniment for this and half of my choir (no matter the age) starts squealing! They love this one, and it's a great way to work on phrasing and other expressive elements, as well as diction (for obvious reasons).


Obviously you repeat the pattern going up (or down) a half step each time. Once they get the hang of the words, I have them speed up gradually each time. Once we get to a reasonable speed, I have them work on singing the whole thing legato, particularly connecting "mice" and "are" in the first measure. Depending on the pieces we're working on, this is a great one to have them experiment with different moods, dynamics, and vocal timbres because of the smaller range.

If you're curious, the accompaniment I play on piano is a simple 1-5 bass line on beats 1 and 3, and the root position minor triad on beats 2 and 4. Nothing fancy because I have to be able to play pretty fast once we speed up!

3. Yes / No Game

This is a great way to get brains going while practicing or introducing particular melodic or rhythmic phrases. The conductor sings (or chants, if you want to just focus on rhythm) a short phrase, and the choir echoes it back. BUT the choir has to use the opposite of the words the conductor uses, so if the conductor sings "yes, yes, no, no, yes", then the choir sings back "no, no, yes, yes, no". I always start this by sticking with just one word or the other, but it can get pretty crazy once you start mixing them up (as in the example above)! When the pattern I was aiming for comes up in rehearsal, I'll have them echo it with yes/no again to remind them and then practice the phrase in the music- they'll quickly recognize the connection!

4. Excerpts

This is similar to my last warm-up example, but taking a short excerpt from a piece to introduce or practice a specific element is another great warm-up. Unless the lyrics in that phrase happen to be really interesting (or I'm specifically working on the diction etc), I'll often change the words to something silly, and then repeat it going chromatically up each time. Then when the targeted excerpt comes up in rehearsal, if they are struggling, I'll point out what we did in the warm-up and the light bulbs go off!

That's it for my favorite warm-ups for beginning children's choirs. What are your favorites? I'd love to hear them in the comments below!

If you want to read more about my elementary choir rehearsal procedures, check out this post.

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