Warm-ups: Why warm up?
Thank you to everyone who responded with their varied
approaches, suggestions of background reading, advice
on dealing with the internal politics, etc. A monster
Why are warm-ups necessary?
If faced with a group of outspoken choristers who
claim to know everything already, and who don't
understand why they need warm-ups, how would you
answer the question?
I have my own answers, but I expect the collective
wisdom will be more eloquent and erudite than I.
Please reply off-list, i'll happily post a
I'm a former chorister, not a director, and I LOVED
1. Personally, I often arrived at rehearsal direct
from work with no
opportunity to warm up on my own.
2. Warmups remind singers of correct singing
dancers take class every day of their lives, why
spend a little time doing something similar?
3. Warmups re-assemble the group, and allow teaching
of blend, balance
4. When they comprise difficult or instructive
passages from the work
in progress, they allow "woodshedding" with minimal
5. Warmups provide a psychic transition from the
outside world to the
business at hand.
6. Warmups allow flexibility in content, so people
don't just do what
they know how to do or what they are comfortable with.
7. They allow the conductor to see how the group is
going to work in
that particular rehearsal session.
8. They may allow the conductor to try something on
for size, whether
it is singing "hashed" instead of in large sections,
using a small group
to do something (why not use a warmup for a demo
small group, then
large group or all on the same passage?).
I bet I have 10 reasons, but these 8 came just as fast
as I could type
them! Notice I have NOT included the "because I'm the
director and I
get to choose rehearsal content" option, although I do
that if the group is paying you, a large part of what
they are paying you
for is exactly that your expertise and superior
skills. If they
aren't paying you, then you're a saint, or something
The director (conductor) is ALWAYS right- if they have
a problem answering as a choir to your direction, they
are showing ignorannce and disrespect!
I think that warm ups often make people uncomfortable
are simply reptetative exercises without the benefit
of feedback. I
if I treat a warmup as an equal activity to the songs
we sing then the
doesn't so much mind the notion of warming up. I have
the past (esp. adults, but children as well) balk at
the notion of
but recently I've found my choirs enjoying the warm
ups and feeling
if we avoid them. The trick I think is helping them
to see a purpose
activity. In an individual voice lesson, vocalise
activities are used
improve the voice. Although a choir is certainly
different to an
and you have to be careful as to the level of
sophistication you ask
vocalise so that you don't hurt your singers by asking
them to do
you can't monitor, the same notion applies. Something
as simple as
them "Ooo", "Ah" or lip-trill down a P5 starting on
F#ish and moving
through the passagio will give you an exercise with
which you can offer
feedback and be able to hear what is going on. Your
women are likely
their sound with their jaw and tongue, and your men
are likely to sing
their throat or weakly on the top and press on the
bottom (both sexes
some of the same thing). By offering advice and
feedback each time
the exercise and by making sure that they understand
how you want them
sound, they will become engaged in getting better.
Once people are
their own sake they will get into it.
If you engage in the repetitious time-killers of
half scales moving
half-step and the like then I can understand why they
don't like to
as I don't much like that either. I even find this
non-purposed exercise damaging esp. to older voices.
I also don't put
in "singing to the top of the range" kinds of
exercises unless there is
specific need to work that part of the range. In
general I've found
become stronger at their extremities by building
strength in the part
voice that they use more often. When I am having
trouble getting the
appropriate sound from the group on certain notes then
I'll work those
specifically. Finally, I use the same few warmups
every time we get
twice a week). I find that this continuity helps the
giving them a measure to compare against. I will add
a random other
specific purposes sometimes. Of course, this means
that you have to
have a few
really good warm ups that work for you and that takes
works for you and your group. Hope this helps,
Although individual voices vary in how much warm up
they need to
function at peak efficiency, the major function of the
choral warm up
which I learned from Robert Shaw is to get the group
themselves collectively in the rehearsal/performance
space and how to
blend individual voices to the collective sound of the
the entire group. His raising of a pitch in 16
gradations to the half
step is a mental exercise which forces the singer to
intense listener. In my view the listening is what
needs to be
"warmed up" for good choral performance.
So called "outspoken" choristers who say they know
very little. That aside, the vocal folds are a muscle
else. What's more, these 2 muscles slap together at
an alarming speed
therefore need maximum flexibility. Slow and steady
good health for years to come. The other very good
reason for warm-ups
to increase awareness of those around you. A chain is
only as strong
weakest link and a choir is only as good as its
time allows you the conductor to work on certain
timbre. It likewise gives the singers a chance to
focus and get into
"groove" so to speak. Perhaps this will help those
focus a little bit more on themselves and their love
of singing and
the idea that some things are a waste of time.
Group singing is an athletic sport, requiring
coordinated use of
Would you start to run without stretching? Don't
passing and kicking before a game? It's important both
to warm up
singing muscles in isolation from each other, and
coordination to tone up.
Then there's the need for group coordination, just as
in a sport.
teams work on passing, singing groups work on blend
and the "group
That comes from practicing the basics.
Finally, there's a need for non-professional singers
to make the
from the rest of their life into group singing mode.
Warm-ups bring to
forward consciousness all the mental habits important
to good singing,
pushes out of consciousness the day's distractions
I faced the same issue with my choristers when I came
on board with
This is what I used to rebut them: at the Eastern
in Boston (2004), we learned from an ENT that it takes
7 minutes of
for the vocal folds to fill with blood and literally
be "warmed up"
for safe singing. He showed us slides of vocal folds
which were "cold"
unwarmed - and WHITE, and vocal folds which are warmed
up and PINK.
with any other muscle we intend to use, we must first
warm it up and
blood to the muscle or risk significant injury to the
The second item is that the part of the brain which
has to do with
processing and making music also receives more blood
after 7-10 minutes of warming up. This has been
learned via brain
The first 7-10 minutes of music-making are basically
So, there are two excellent physiological,
why we need to spend a few minutes warming up prior to
working on our
I am battling with the same difficulty with my choir!
that warm-ups are a waste of time; others say the
warm-ups where they
are OK, but we shouldn't do any breathing exercises or
about how to sing correctly.
I think what they really want is to come along to
rehearsal each week
have "a good sing". But those same people will be the
first to complain
people are singing out of tune, or not blending, etc.
The other thing
keep in mind is that, on the odd occasion when I don't
do warm-ups, I
get complaints, but from different members!
Anyhow, here's some of the things I say:
* singing is physically demanding, just like sport -
you wouldn't go on
soccer field or swim a race without first warming up,
* teamwork - warm-ups help get the group focussed on
the job in hand,
* teamwork again - different things are helpful for
different people -
are a bunch of individuals coming together as a team,
as a choir, and
warm-up and rehearse together - co-operate with what
the group needs,
if you as an individual don't feel you need this
* warm-ups can help get your mind and body organised
to sing well.
* warm-ups can help prepare the choir for the
particular singing that
will need to do that day.
* warm-ups should be done at home at the start of
singing practice for
the same reasons as they are helpful in rehearsals.
Sometimes I tell the choir a story that illustrates my
watched a TV program tonight where sheep shearers were
about their work. Shearing is demanding physical work,
muscles in particular ways. It is much more demanding
than singing, but
two are probably similar in the degree of
specialisation required to do
well. One shearer said that, after being on holiday
for 3 or 4 weeks,
took him up to two weeks to get back into what he
called "good shearing
condition" - i.e., where he could work well all day
with little or no
The first week especially, he said, was quite painful
the end of the day.
Sometimes I throw the question open to the choir - why
do you think we
warm-ups? Do you find them helpful? If you also do
them at home, how
that affect your home practice sessions?
Also, as we are doing the warm-ups, sometimes I will
stop and explain
particular warm-up is for - what I'm trying to achieve
don't do this all the time of course, just
occasionally, perhaps if I
there is a bit of unrest over the issue of warm-ups!
I am always on the lookout for ideas on this subject,
so I look forward
reading your compilation!
All the best,
warm-ups are not for individual, but for "choir."
Certainly well-developed choristers doesn't need
warm-up, or they MUST
their warm-ups by themselves.
Warm-ups are needed for "choir"; that is to say, they
pitches, kind of voices, sounds, size of vowels,
timing of consonants,
so on. Without these efforts, a choir is just
"soloists," not "chorus."
Warm-ups are an essential part of vocal training for
Creek Boychoir, which I direct. That 10-minute slot
focuses the group
on its team ideal, it gives me a shance to work
continuously on some
specific goals * breathing, connecting wind to voice,
clarity, range/tessitura/flexibility. The warm-up is
fail, by a brief sight-singing drill. Every rehearsal
begins this way
and they expect it. Just like conditioning before a
I keep a few of the warm-up vocalises the same
over a long period
of time, so that they can settle the pattern into
their voices, and
sense when progress is being made. But others are
changed from time to
time, depending upon needs.
No question about it. For me, the group warm-up
When I taught high school I fought this battle on
standby was to remind them that if they were about to
go on a five-mile
they would make sure to stretch to make sure they're
not in a world of
by the time they finish. Singing is really no
Also, my personal observations about the few occasions
I didn't warm up
choir for the sake of time:
- vocal tone was not as free and singers did not feel
- intonation and tuning suffered greatly
- range extremes (especially the high end) sounded
Hope this helps!
Tell them that they would always see athletes warm-up
and that singing
is athletic because your total body is engaged in
I am sorry but if they know so much about singing they
already learned that, don't you think?
It's obvious that they need warmups to get their
voices ready to sing,
but your know it alls don't want to hear that. An
approach I've found
to be effective is to tell them you are using the
warmups to help the
group develop a good sound - they should listen to
each other and blend
- which they should anyway. That's one idea anyway.
If you sing a piece (e.g. Brahms Requiem) straight
through with no
warmup, your voice will croak eventually. You can't
sustained, forte without limbering up, just as you
without stretching. (Try singing even the sixth
warming up!) The unpleasant effect of hard singing
without warmup is
to be froggy in speaking voice (e.g. if you sing in
the car and then
go to work ... urg).
Warmups help you wake up your ear, loosen your body,
posture, generally get you into the groove of a
performance. Some of our warmups involve focusing on
moving from one to another without scooping, cracking,
or sagging in
pitch. When we've been speaking all day, vocal
warmups help make
the transition to singing.
Warmups also help you loosen you up emotionally
shake off the
cares of the day, wiggle around, give backrubs, howl
and flap your
lips. Great way to break down the inhibitions of body
take over our work day (and affect our singing
The "howling" warmup is good because it puts the voice
entire range effortlessly, no cracking or tightness in
the voice, and
it's amazing how high and low you can go in this
Warmups remind us that singing is an exercise just
Instrumentalists do it to, and not just to tune up.
Listen to what
they do scales and passages all to get their
fingers and lungs
wakened up and ready to go.
I've sung in choruses that don't do warmups; usually
orchestra chorus where you are expected to do the
warmups on your own
and come to rehearsal ready to sing. (Note that
warmups are not
written off, but the responsibility shifted from group
Geez, what a question.
Choirs need to develop unity in several dimensions:
rhythmic unity, balanced chords, tuned chords, etc.
Warm-ups focus on
these essential elements and force singers to adjust
to a choirnot to
"I'm a fine singer and I know just exactly what I
need." Choirs are
a "we" thing, not a "me" thing (a phrase I tell my
choir every so
oftenI, too, have several singers who thing they
Terry J. Barham
Warm-ups are not voice lessons. One hopes that all
one's singers have
little training, yet there are always some singers who
have not, or who
been badly taught (or have been bad students!.)
So what are warm-ups for? They get everybody on the
same page, get the
bodies aligned for singing after a day of using it for
alert the ears and brain to start hearing sounds in a
select way, they energize the breathing mechanisms and
warm the larynx,
similar fashion to how a baseball pitcher warms his
After all, you wouldn't want to hear the tone quality
of a soprano
sustaining a high Bb with no warm-up any more than you
would expect a
pitcher to strike out a batter with 90 mile-an-hour
fast balls with no
Warm-ups are also a study in ensemble. Ensemble is
merely a snapshot
time, even if exactly the same personnel are in the
room each time
never happens to me anyway!) Depending upon mood,
health, energy level
life in general, there is always a need to get
and doing this gradually in warm-ups that have an
dynamics, range and text will help focus the mind. I
also believe that
this is done and done thoroughly, the literature to be
learned and tuned much more quickly.
Enough? I can give more. There is also an article I
published in The
American Organist on the subject, called (oddly
enough) "Why do
It is reproduced in my book Choir Care: Building Sound
order it from the publications page in TAO every
month, near the front
Good luck and bless you for keeping the faith even in
the face of
uninformed singers who do not understand ensemble
Marilyn (micki) Gonzalez
There's a related ChoralNet resource on this topic
"Why are warmups necessary?"):
choralnet.org > Rehearsal > General > Warmups > Choral
(look closely for this title; there are several other
which aren't relevant)
Allen H Simon
Despite the fact that vocal sound is produced by the
the vocal folds (which are not muscles), there are
many muscles in the
vocal mechanism which need to be prepared for singing.
True, after a
full day of talking and laughing, not much warm-up is
needed, but as
athletes and sportspeople know, you must prepare
(warm-up) the muscles
beforehand in order to perform the sport to the best
of their ability
to increase the useful life of the muscles.
Sure, one can do physical activity without warming up
and that person
not notice the damage, especially if they always do it
(such as farmers, laborers, etc). But when they get
are worn out because of the fact they didn't care for
with the voice. I've got singers in my choir in their
80s, who are
fantastic singers - good clear tone with no wobble -
taken care of their voices.
Because I'm the director, and I'm telling you it's
good for you.
Warm-ups focus the individual minds on the group
objective. It is the
time when all the disparate, self-focused singers bind
into the creation of a whole instrument.
The warm-up time is not so much a time to practice
using our voices as
it is a time to train our ears. In a choir, we are
responding to what we hear. In the Atlanta Symphony
McKenzie doesn't do vocalises to get the individual
voices to work; he
employs choral exercises designed to tune the
In my little treble choirs, I use warm-ups to either
engage energy or
calm and focus the children so that they are ready to
work as a group
their music. For advanced trebles, every week, the
warm-up time is all
about becoming a group, remembering who we are and
what we stand for.
I am interested in knowing what age level these
choristers are? Surely anyone that "knows everything"
would know that singing through a rehearsal without
warming up can, in the end, be dangerous and harmful
to the vocal mechanism. Could a runner run 4 miles
without stretching? Sure, but it would hurt for a
week or more afterwards!
To me, this sounds like a group of high school
students in a program that had someone else as their
director for a long time and you just stepped in and
you're trying to get your feet on the ground and, of
course, no matter what you try, it's not the other
person so they don't listen yet! Of course, I'm only
saying that because I experienced similar things about
five years ago!
There are three very important reasons for warm-ups,
plus a multitude
of lesser reasons:
1) to work the range of one's voice that is not
normally used during
the day. Our "speaking" range is far smaller than our
2) so the individual can focus on choir and remove
experiences, and distractions of the day;
3) to help develop "community" with the choir - a
oneness, a single
mindedness, a cohesion of sound. These are the
Other reasons? To work a specific, difficult rhythm
pattern, vocal pattern, enumciation (incl. vowels and
Specifically for a group of know-it-all (or maybe
perhaps the purpose of warmups is to pull them out of
what they might
KNOW individually, into the possibility of having a
might transcend their individual knowledge.
Warmups even if they are only mental including
necessary to come into a peaceful commonality from
which the musical
potential of the group can emerge. In the busy lives
of most of our
singers, warmups function not so much as technical
exercises, but more
opportunities to clear away the tensions and debris
the day, and refocus on creative and spiritual
potential. Then that
refocused energy can become available to the work of
As in so many things, what we KNOW as individuals can
define the limits
our contribution to the work at hand, unless we are
willing to put
at the service of that work. It is perfectly
reasonable for both the
individuals and the director to recognize that
have specific knowledge or experience beyond that of
the ensemble or
the director. But it is absolutely necessary for
those individuals to
their trust in the director to help them refocus
themselves to the best
interests of the ensemble.
A warmup period is one way of doing this supplying
a brief buffer
what the individual singers bring to the rehearsal and
so that the individual has a chance to take
something different away
them at the end of the rehearsal.
A concert series that I am aware of uses the tag-line:
"Come as you
are . .
. leave transformed." I think that is a great image
to place before
Beyond that, it is necessary for the director to
devise warmups that
simply perfunctory, but that address the specific
needs of both the
and the music at that particular time and for that
Sometimes a moment of silent and focused breathing can
be more valuable
all of the scales and arpeggios in the world.
Charles Q. Sullivan
Unanimity of approach to, well, everything. Vowels
production, attacks, diction
(both pronunciation and enunciation), dynamics,
releases, etc. Each
person may be well-versed in
all of these, but the group has to agree and unify,
and that's where
warm-ups can come in (in
addition to fixing vocal problems that some may have
but don't think
In the case of any choir that is less that fully
consider warm-ups to be an opportunity to teach vocal
technique and to
develop tone, without the extra demands of a certain
repertoire. In the case of younger choristers (up to
age 15, say) they
are a great opportunity to teach theory and
ear-training as well
(singing chromatic scales a cappella in canon, for
Linda A. Beaupré
Warm-up with a purpose - body alignment, vocal
technique, readying the
for specific problems found in the repertoire and
memory/ear training exercises. Perhaps if you
developed a repertoire
vocal warm-ups to address various ways of warming up
the body, mind and
spirit. Address posture through body lining up
body mapping), develop warm-ups that address open
vowels and lifted
palate, loose jaw, etc. Also give them some ear
training as part of
warm-up. You don't mention the age of the
choristers... Also, if they
haven't been used to warming up their voices as part
of their singing
routine, then you will have to get them moving to your
way of doing
This year I started teaching at a high school that has
reputation. The teacher that was there before me is a
a singer and I am a singer not a pianist. Our
approach to choral music
very different. I do a great deal of rehearsing
without a piano. At
the students were openly opposed to this way, but now
more and more of
are realizing that they are singing with a better tone
quality and in
tune because of the way they have been rehearsing.
Stick to your guns
you will eventually get them to come around to your
way of thinking.
Even the best professional athletes require stretching
and warming up to prepare there body to function.
Singing is also (partly) a function of muscle control.
These muscles require stretching and preparation
to work there best. Try running a marathon (for some
of us, even a block) without stretching.
Your chorus sounds much like one of minemy
children's chorus of 5 to 10 year olds and the
complaining is familiar, too! I tell my children that
our bodies are our instruments, and that just like
athletes, we must warm up and prepare before we tackle
the "tough stuff". Several times this semester, I've
had a few of the kids remark that they didn't "sign up
for ballet" because I stretch them and move them as
well (I'm a former ballerina, so they may have point
LOL!) but singing IS physical and stretching does
help. Also, my husband is an ENT doc and supports me
in my choice to warm up the actual BODY, especially
with the kids.
With adults, I always do some gentle stretching and
back rubs to begin rehearsals. I do some basic vocal
warm-ups, 1-3-5-8 ooos or looos, etc. but really try
to incorporate some part of the music we will be
tackling in rehearsal as part of the official warm up.
(and it is WORK for me to do that and be creative but
my warm-ups are never boring!) It saves time, by
isolating those tricky partsusually vocally tricky
parts, so when we get to them, we are ahead of the
game. With church jobs, I also use a hymn for that
Sunday that is perhaps not a familiar one, singing in
4 parts on neutral syllables. We begin softly at
first, then change the syllable or add words. We're
not wasting time and voila, they're warmed-up. Some
folks don't believe in choral warm-up because they
"waste time" but I use that time to teach vocal
skills, listening skills and work on the "blend". I
think that, with adults who are amateurs, this is the
only "voice lessons" many of them will have. I begin
rehearsal RIGHT AWAY at the appointed time with
warm-ups and by the time we're finished, everyone has
showed up and I make my announcementsyou're not late
until we're finished with warm-ups.
Hope this helps.
Marie Grass Amenta
I don't have a good answer for you. But as a voice
teacher, if I get a student who gets too full of him
or herself, I just ask that student to do things they
are unable to do. Difficult vocalises will shut
people up pretty quickly.
I have found that my students (high school) are quite
good choral tone. HOWEVER, they don't do it
automatically. We need to
several minutes of focused warm-ups to get their
brains and voices
Without them (warm-ups), the songs are generally more
It is also an opportunity to tune and balance their
voices with one
and (don't tell them this one), come into submission
Robert C. Fullerton
How ironic you should post such a question. I am in
the final editing and defense process of my DMA
dissertation, which is a complitation of modern
research on vibrato and straight tone. This subject
essentially the soloist in the choral rehearsal,
I'm assuming is very related. So, forgive me if I
get long-winded. :-)
First of all, I would suggest you read Sally Louise
Glover's article, "How and Why Vocal Solo and Choral
Warm-ups Differ." It was published in the October
2001 Choral Journal. If you have access to IIMP
(International Index to Music Periodicals), the full
text is available on-line.
Aside from that, I am both a professional soloist and
a choral conductor. I am also in a professional
chamber choir, and I am a voice teacher and opera
coach. (Just so you know my background.) There are
technique differences between choral and solo singing.
The literature strongly supports this. The vowel
structure is slightly different to maximize the
"matching" of the vowel between voices. Soloistically
trained singers also utilize more damping techniques
when singing in choirs (removing certain reinforced
partials from the sound, which is what makes a solo
voice "ping"). Therefore, the choral warm-up time
isn't about physically warming up the instrument. It
is about agreeing on the choral vowels and the choral
sound, about listening and thinking like an ensemble.
Some vocal instruction can be done if the person doing
the warm-ups is trained appropriately and there is a
large constituency of amateurs in the ensemble. It is
suggested that these people stay away from specific
terminology (i.e., "raise the soft palate," "breathe
from your diaphragm" which incidentally is
incorrect terminology, but I digress) and guide the
group towards finding a ensemble sound through matched
vowels, healthy air flow, and acute listening for
NOTE THAT I MAKE NO MENTION OF VIBRATO OR STRAIGHT
TONE. :-) This is a hot topic in the US, at least.
The tonal ideal is first aurally conceived by the
conductor, and modified by what the group is willing
and able to do.
If you have a core of "soloists" in an amateur group
(and I put "soloists" in quotations because not all
who *think* they are soloists are, they just act that
way because they've taken voice lessons) then they
should be leaders and not dissenters. They should
demonstrate to those around them good posture, good
vowels, good intonation, and good ensemble singing.
One of my colleagues says, "Always use every
opportunity to reinforce the good habits you are
learning in your studio." If they are exhibiting any
body language that detracts from the betterment of the
whole, then they are the proverbial rotten apple. The
less-experienced singers are looking up to them, even
if they don't realize it, and will follow whatever
example they set, be it good or bad. If the "solo"
singer has a negative attitude about the warm-ups,
then the less-experienced singers around them will
also begin to share the same opinions even though they
don't necessarily know why.
This is something that has been a relatively new
realization to me, coming back to school. Several of
the DMA/MM students here are accomplished singers. We
are also choral conductors, and of course we have our
opinions of what our teachers are doing in rehearsal.
We have to remember that we sing in an ensemble
surrounded by undergrads who watch what we do like
hawks! If we allow a thought to be expressed on our
faces or in our bodies (that is negative towards the
conductor), the undergrads pick up on that in a big
way. We have to be very careful!
I hope this is along the lines of what you are asking
Suzanne M. Hatcher
FOCUS!!! To get brains all moving in the SAME
direction, which is not
a normal activity.
I have been teaching for 17 years, and I hate warm
ups. But, I have
that when I do them using the vocal skills needed in
the music we are
working on, even I focus better, and therefore retain
However good the singers, warming up is required at 2
Each voice needs to be warmed up and this could be
As for running and other sports, singing is a physical
activity and the
muscle groups involve need to be warmed up.
Warming up is the time for most choirs when the
exercies that improve
intonation and choral blend are worked on. A choir
will only sound
absolutely in tune and with that focus of sound
achieved by the very
choirs if there is absolute consistency of vowel
sounds. This can ony
achieved through exercises and these are best served
up within the
collective warm up period.
The key is to make sure that the warm up exercises are
relevant to what
wish to achieve.
I'm working on my doctorate at the University of
Minnesota, and every
and then I get a chance to go to the Music Library to
skim the latest
research (just for fun). I came across one article
that dealt with
issue in the Journal of Voice, Volume 17, Number 2
(pp. 160ff) by
Motel, Kimberly Fisher, and Ciara Leydon.
They studied the impact of warm-ups on the soprano
voice, versus the
warm-ups (choral rest).
They suggested that (the whole study in one line):
"Short-term vocal exercise may increase the viscosity
of the vocal fold
thus serve to stablize the high voice (p. 160)."
In other words, the effect of doing vocal warm-ups has
set of researchers found that warm-ups loosen up the
vocal folds and
very well help you to sing higher with more stability.
Of course, we vocal folks already knew that, but it's
nice to have
to back it up.
What level of singers are we talking about here? Are
professionals who come already warmed up?
If not, the best explanation is that singing is partly
unhealthy to do heavy exercise (and singing is heavy
exercise for the
vocal mechanism) without first warming up.
You can find good sites describing vocal health
It doesn't matter what you know, a voice needs warming
up before the
serious singing starts. Starting cold is not good for
the voice and
the muscles. You wouldn't do a workout at the gym
without a warm up
stretching session first. Your outspoken choristers
ought to do it for
their own good, and if they don't think it's for their
own good, they
ought to at least back you up for the sake of the less
If nothing else, a good group will respect its leaders
and bring up
questions in private. If they're questioning you in
front of the rest
of the group, you may need to have a conversation with
them and ask
to keep the disputes out of the practice hall. Good
luck! This might
be a problem, but I imagine it's a blessing to have a
set of singers to work with.
I couldn't find this before, but I've located it now.
All your singers
should know this site:
This is from the Lions Voice Clinic at University of
Minnesota, one of
the most respected centers for the treatment of voice
discussion linked above, on vocal hygiene, needs to be
a bible for all
singers. It deals not only with warm-ups (giving the
mentioned in my previous message), but hydration and
host of other
I'd suggest that you make a copy of these pages for
I don't do warmups. I find it much more efficient and
simply to spend the first 10-15 minutes of rehearsal
something not loud and in the middle range of most
singers... hymns and
folksongs work great for this.
To avoid strain and allow the voice to excel. Just
like when an
athlete warms up before doing something which will
push his body to the
To focus the brain. If singers can't use the right
techniques in warm
ups they don;t stand a chance of employing them when
there is a text
and less predictable music to deal with.
To give extra practice in the particularly tricky
things the repertoire
has in store for them - meaning the stuff they are
expected to sing in
the rehearsal. There is always a bar or two.
To get them out of their speaking voices.
To stay vocally healthy - why exercise any part of the
I tend to use these justifications. If they still
don't get it, maybe
they aren't really pushing their voices to the limits?
Hope this helps
I tend to use sports analogies. For several reasons:
* Choir is the ultimate team sport. Everyone "plays"
all of the time,
there are no "time outs", and there is no bench.
* Students tend to understand about sports teams.
When your students either participate in or attend
sporting events, do
the teams just come out of the locker room and start
the game? No.
They spend time stretching, and (guess what?) WARMING
Hope this helps.
As an athlete needs to prepare his or her body for
strenuous activity, so does the vocalist need to
prepare his or her body for singing. As the vocal
apparatus is being prepared physically through a few
physical activities such as stretches and shoulder
rolls, then yawn/sighs , vocalises, etc., the singer
is becoming focused on the task ahead, which is
obviously singing, often for prolonged periods of
time. Pulling vocal warmups from the music refreshes
the memory of details within the music and the mind is
more alert to them when they happen. In this way the
whole body is working towards the same end, good
I've discarded the phrase "warm-ups" for "vocal
For a short period of time, we focus intently on
breathing exercises and
some vocalise to transition from the talking voice to
voice. We always finish with tuning/ear training (and
SOLFEGE EVERY DAY!).
For what it's worth,
You could answer with this:
Would an Olympic athelete "perform" without first
stretching? We use
our vocal muscles just as strenously as an Olympic
athelete. We only use
a much smaller (and therefore much more fragile)
muscle in producing
Also, our goal is to work WITH those around us, not
This requires concentration and mental effort on the
something which cannot be achieved working alone.
I also like to say in the back of my mind that any
musical ensemble is
an autocracy, at least to the creation of the sound.
This can only be
controlled by him/her outside of the actual group.
With using warmups
you create this sound and then insert the music into
Singing is as much an athletic activity as it is an
(Helen Kemp said that) and just as athletes must warm
up their bodies
to avoid injury, so must singers. OR, to appeal to
another point of
view would you run a fine car without periodic
In addition, I find personally that warm ups are
prime time for
teaching aural and reading skills as well as improving
Sometimes easy rep. can be used as warmups but after
relaxation and breathing activities have been done.
Good luck in defending your stance.
The fact that they believe they do not need to warm up
impression that they are the very ones who need it.
Ask them if they
run the 100-meter hurdles without stretching first
or a mile, for
matter or play a football match without
conditioning in advance.
voice is no different from any other set of muscles
and needs attention
care to be used properly. They cannot shepherd their
care and thought if they have not warmed up in advance
to know how well
equipment is working that day. Bring in an expert
voice teacher to
with them someone with impeccable chops as a vocal
see what happens to their questions.
Good luck to you!
Well, what I have done in similar situations, I've
tried to talk to
settle things in the good manner. But if none of this
work, I have to
them to leave the choir. Try to deal with them first,
if they don't
cooperate with you, take them out.
1. For the same reason runners, dancers and pitchers
do warm-ups: to stimulate blood circulation through
the muscle tissue and gently stretch and extend the
muscles, in order to prevent strain and injury.
2. To focus on vocal technique, physical sensation and
awareness of vocal function apart from the process of
reading or performing actual music.
3. To sharpen awareness of elements of
ensembleblend, balance and intonationagain, in
temporary isolation from the added demand of singing
Good questionI've heard it many times from high
Warm-ups are much more than warm-ups.
The following can and should be accomplished in the
1. vocalizing which establishes good singing
technique, a group voice lesson if you will. Here,
you the singing teacher, are teaching concepts and
practices which allow the group to function well "as
2. Vowels always have to be adjusted/modified for
musical, blend, tuning and vocal ease purposes. It is
in the warm-up period that the necessary flexibility
of vowel is learned. Learning it in the musical
context is too complicated and wastes time.
3. Elements of ensemble musicianship are addressed
independently of the score. Crescendo, diminuendo,
accelerando, etc., can be taught more effectively
here, and when they appear in the score, can be
incorporated with less effort.
4. Tuning can be a focus, and broken down into
separate intervals for tuning, esp. perfect intervals.
All this stuff can and should be reinforced when the
music is rehearsed, but if it is not learned before,
in the "warm-up" period, incorporating into the music
is more difficult, and time is wasted.
All the best; looking forward to the compilation.
Paul S. Meers
It never ceases to amaze me how ignorant some people
can be about the importance of warm-ups! I don't
think I ihave any NEW thoughts on the subject, but I
talk to my singers about singing as a physical,
emotional, mental and spiritual experience and we need
to "ready" all those parts of ourselves... Singing
without warming up the vocal mechanism and breathing
system would be like running 5K without stretching. I
talk alot about the importance of protecting their
voice as it IS their instrument and needs to be
delicately cared for. Also, I believe that mental
warm-ups are vital to help singers switch gears to the
choral setting and focus for singing.
Best of luck to you!
Would they go for a run without stretching? Workout
without a cardio warm up?
I've found that when I can tie the warm-up exercises
to a specific vocal challenge in the repertoire, the
warm-up is less of an issue.
Continuing gratitude to everyone
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I've had two more replies to my warm-up question since
posting the compilation, and thought they should be
shared. One is particularly relevant to directors of
church choirs. The other - I *love* "why study before
a test?" as an argument!
You could try making the analogy that warming up is a
natural part of doing any physical or mental activity.
Football players don't immediately start running
plays when they have finished suiting out and are on
the field. Baseball players do not start a game
without throwing and batting a little before a game.
Why study before a test?
Why warm up before a game?
Why do vocal and aural skill-related warmups before a
rehearsal or concert?
It prepares you for the strenuous work of
intelligently and healthily singing during such
You didn't indicate in your question whether the focus
of the choir in
question is secular or religious in nature. Since you
didn't, and also
no one offered a viewpoint from a religious
perspective, I want to add
two cents. Even if your choir is not one formed for
might find some use for my comments, I hope. They are
from a Christian
perspective, but I'll also do my best to offer a
to the principles I bring up........
1- While people should never be "shamed" into becoming
should be reminded that in a religious setting all the
work is meant
glorification of God. Because this is true every
effort should be made
singers to "give of their best to the Master," as a
On the secular side of this point is the fact that
forgiving of children most of the time, are not
necessarily so with
who can and should "do what it takes" to win their
correlates, I think, with the idea that a choir which
does what it can
please its audiences with the best singing it can
develope will enjoy
audiences- certainly a reflection on the amount of
pleasure they are
deriving from the group over time. Also, a choir
showing its ability
intent to continually strengthen its sounds will make
efforts easier and more fruitful, yielding you members
that will not be
obstinate about improving the quality of sound coming
2- The Bible speaks of believers who are "of one
mind." "Laying aside
world" and living in the realm of "praying without
ceasing," is both a
mandate of Scripture as well as a means to
sanctification and spiritual
development. My point is that singing too easily is
divorced in many
religious settings from the spiritual growth it can
and should foster
people. There is much to be gained from singing in the
other than the physical benefits for those engaged in
That mirrors, of course, what others have said much
better than I about
sense of community that singing can and should
develope generally, and
many attendant benefits other than physical ones to be
3- The process of developing vocal technique can be
seen as a type of
stewardship of the gifts with which God has blessed
the men and women
choir. I believe that discipline of the voice, in
order to glorify God
fully as possible within our "temples," is not
of those who desire to grow in their discipleship.
True discipleship is
without some amount of self-sacrifice for others, and
often is even
While we don't want to put singers in pain, so to
speak, we certainly
remind them of the "laying aside of self" for the
service of others.
some view the choir as worship leaders, they
necessaily have an impact
those who hear them. The choir must choose, as much as
individual and collective "sacrifices" they make
through warmups, that
to strengthen their message and the way it is
delivered, has a positive
influence on other worshippers.
On the secular side, all athletes, of any kind, endure
to a great degree, in order to exact from their bodies
from them to "gain the gold." By doing so, not only do
they remind us
wonderful capabilities of the human body, but also of
results achieved by those willing to endure what are
uncomfortable routines. Not only that, but they draw
others to their
particular sport and set standards others try to at
least equal, if not
Thanks again to all respondents
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