Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

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
compilation follows:

-

Original message:

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
compilation.

Simon Loveless

-

I'm a former chorister, not a director, and I LOVED
warmups. Why?

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
techniques. Professional
dancers take class every day of their lives, why
shouldn't singers
spend a little time doing something similar?
3. Warmups re-assemble the group, and allow teaching
of blend, balance
and intonation.
4. When they comprise difficult or instructive
passages from the work
in progress, they allow "woodshedding" with minimal
pain.
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
firmly believe
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
near ...

Sue Noble



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
especially if
they
are simply reptetative exercises without the benefit
of feedback. I
find that
if I treat a warmup as an equal activity to the songs
we sing then the
choir
doesn't so much mind the notion of warming up. I have
had several
choirs in
the past (esp. adults, but children as well) balk at
the notion of
warming up,
but recently I've found my choirs enjoying the warm
ups and feeling
slighted
if we avoid them. The trick I think is helping them
to see a purpose
in the
activity. In an individual voice lesson, vocalise
activities are used
to
improve the voice. Although a choir is certainly
different to an
individual voice,
and you have to be careful as to the level of
sophistication you ask
from a
vocalise so that you don't hurt your singers by asking
them to do
something that
you can't monitor, the same notion applies. Something
as simple as
having
them "Ooo", "Ah" or lip-trill down a P5 starting on
F#ish and moving
down
through the passagio will give you an exercise with
which you can offer
loads of
feedback and be able to hear what is going on. Your
women are likely
to pinch
their sound with their jaw and tongue, and your men
are likely to sing
back in
their throat or weakly on the top and press on the
bottom (both sexes
may do
some of the same thing). By offering advice and
feedback each time
they sing
the exercise and by making sure that they understand
how you want them
to
sound, they will become engaged in getting better.
Once people are
interested for
their own sake they will get into it.
If you engage in the repetitious time-killers of
half scales moving
up by
half-step and the like then I can understand why they
don't like to
warm-up
as I don't much like that either. I even find this
kind of
non-feedback,
non-purposed exercise damaging esp. to older voices.
I also don't put
much stock
in "singing to the top of the range" kinds of
exercises unless there is
a
specific need to work that part of the range. In
general I've found
that singers
become stronger at their extremities by building
strength in the part
of their
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
areas
specifically. Finally, I use the same few warmups
every time we get
together (usually
twice a week). I find that this continuity helps the
singers improve
by
giving them a measure to compare against. I will add
a random other
exercise for
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
experimenting
with what
works for you and your group. Hope this helps,

David Harris

-

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
to hear
themselves collectively in the rehearsal/performance
space and how to
blend individual voices to the collective sound of the
section and
the entire group. His raising of a pitch in 16
gradations to the half
step is a mental exercise which forces the singer to
become an
intense listener. In my view the listening is what
needs to be
"warmed up" for good choral performance.

Robert Bowker

-

So called "outspoken" choristers who say they know
everything, often
know
very little. That aside, the vocal folds are a muscle
just like
anything
else. What's more, these 2 muscles slap together at
an alarming speed
and
therefore need maximum flexibility. Slow and steady
excercise will
insure
good health for years to come. The other very good
reason for warm-ups
is
to increase awareness of those around you. A chain is
only as strong
as its
weakest link and a choir is only as good as its
weakest singer.
Warm-up
time allows you the conductor to work on certain
concepts including
tone and
timbre. It likewise gives the singers a chance to
focus and get into
the
"groove" so to speak. Perhaps this will help those
"outspoken"
choristers
focus a little bit more on themselves and their love
of singing and
less on
the idea that some things are a waste of time.

Good Luck,

Brad Ford



Group singing is an athletic sport, requiring
coordinated use of
muscles.
Would you start to run without stretching? Don't
football players
practice
passing and kicking before a game? It's important both
to warm up
various
singing muscles in isolation from each other, and
practice ear-larynx
coordination to tone up.

Then there's the need for group coordination, just as
in a sport.
Sports
teams work on passing, singing groups work on blend
and the "group
sound."
That comes from practicing the basics.

Finally, there's a need for non-professional singers
to make the
transition
from the rest of their life into group singing mode.
Warm-ups bring to
forward consciousness all the mental habits important
to good singing,
and
pushes out of consciousness the day's distractions
from singing.

Don Gooding

-

I faced the same issue with my choristers when I came
on board with
their
choir.

This is what I used to rebut them: at the Eastern
Division ACDA
Conference
in Boston (2004), we learned from an ENT that it takes
7 minutes of
singing
for the vocal folds to fill with blood and literally
be "warmed up"
enough
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.
Like
with any other muscle we intend to use, we must first
warm it up and
bring
blood to the muscle or risk significant injury to the
muscle.

The second item is that the part of the brain which
has to do with
processing and making music also receives more blood
and becomes
"awake"
after 7-10 minutes of warming up. This has been
learned via brain
scans.
The first 7-10 minutes of music-making are basically
not "active
learning"
minutes, therefore.

So, there are two excellent physiological,
quantitatively measurable
reasons
why we need to spend a few minutes warming up prior to
working on our
music.


Cherwyn Ambuter

-

I am battling with the same difficulty with my choir!
Some members
complain
that warm-ups are a waste of time; others say the
warm-ups where they
sing
are OK, but we shouldn't do any breathing exercises or
relaxation, or
talk
about how to sing correctly.

I think what they really want is to come along to
rehearsal each week
and
have "a good sing". But those same people will be the
first to complain
if
people are singing out of tune, or not blending, etc.
The other thing
that I
keep in mind is that, on the odd occasion when I don't
do warm-ups, I
still
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
the
soccer field or swim a race without first warming up,
stretching, etc.
* teamwork - warm-ups help get the group focussed on
the job in hand,
as a
group.
* teamwork again - different things are helpful for
different people -
we
are a bunch of individuals coming together as a team,
as a choir, and
we
warm-up and rehearse together - co-operate with what
the group needs,
even
if you as an individual don't feel you need this
particular thing.
* 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
they
will need to do that day.
* warm-ups should be done at home at the start of
singing practice for
all
the same reasons as they are helpful in rehearsals.

Sometimes I tell the choir a story that illustrates my
point. For
example, I
watched a TV program tonight where sheep shearers were
being
interviewed
about their work. Shearing is demanding physical work,
and uses
particular
muscles in particular ways. It is much more demanding
than singing, but
the
two are probably similar in the degree of
specialisation required to do
them
well. One shearer said that, after being on holiday
for 3 or 4 weeks,
it
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
pain.
The first week especially, he said, was quite painful
from mid-morning
until
the end of the day.

Sometimes I throw the question open to the choir - why
do you think we
do
warm-ups? Do you find them helpful? If you also do
them at home, how
does
that affect your home practice sessions?

Also, as we are doing the warm-ups, sometimes I will
stop and explain
what a
particular warm-up is for - what I'm trying to achieve
with that
exercise. I
don't do this all the time of course, just
occasionally, perhaps if I
think
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
to
reading your compilation!

All the best,
Margot McLaughlin



warm-ups are not for individual, but for "choir."

Certainly well-developed choristers doesn't need
warm-up, or they MUST
do
their warm-ups by themselves.

Warm-ups are needed for "choir"; that is to say, they
must uniform
their
pitches, kind of voices, sounds, size of vowels,
timing of consonants,
and
so on. Without these efforts, a choir is just
"soloists," not "chorus."

Yutaka Maekawa

-

Warm-ups are an essential part of vocal training for
the Battle
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,
opening up
clarity, range/tessitura/flexibility. The warm-up is
followed, without
fail, by a brief sight-singing drill. Every rehearsal
begins this way
and they expect it. Just like conditioning before a
major physical
workout.
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
is simply
indispensible.
Brooks Grantier

-

When I taught high school I fought this battle on
numerous occasions.
My
standby was to remind them that if they were about to
go on a five-mile
run,
they would make sure to stretch to make sure they're
not in a world of
hurt
by the time they finish. Singing is really no
different.

Also, my personal observations about the few occasions
I didn't warm up
a
choir for the sake of time:
- vocal tone was not as free and singers did not feel
as comfortable
singing
- intonation and tuning suffered greatly
- range extremes (especially the high end) sounded
strained

Hope this helps!

Alexa Doebele



Tell them that they would always see athletes warm-up
and that singing
is athletic because your total body is engaged in
singing.
I am sorry but if they know so much about singing they
should have
already learned that, don't you think?
Good luck!
Cathy

-

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
sing long,
sustained, forte without limbering up, just as you
wouldn't run
without stretching. (Try singing even the sixth
movement without
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,
check your
posture, generally get you into the groove of a
rehearsal or
performance. Some of our warmups involve focusing on
tones and
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
language that
take over our work day (and affect our singing
voices).

The "howling" warmup is good because it puts the voice
through its
entire range effortlessly, no cracking or tightness in
the voice, and
it's amazing how high and low you can go in this
exercise.

Warmups remind us that singing is an exercise just
like running.
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
it's an
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
effort to
individual effort.)

Geez, what a question.

Ginny

-

Choirs need to develop unity in several dimensions:
vowel unity,
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
know everything!)

Terry J. Barham

-

Warm-ups are not voice lessons. One hopes that all
one's singers have
had a
little training, yet there are always some singers who
have not, or who
have
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
other purposes,
they
alert the ears and brain to start hearing sounds in a
different and
more
select way, they energize the breathing mechanisms and
warm the larynx,
in
similar fashion to how a baseball pitcher warms his
arm muscles.

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-up.

Warm-ups are also a study in ensemble. Ensemble is
merely a snapshot
in
time, even if exactly the same personnel are in the
room each time
(which
never happens to me anyway!) Depending upon mood,
health, energy level
and
life in general, there is always a need to get
everybody working
together,
and doing this gradually in warm-ups that have an
increasing
distraction of
dynamics, range and text will help focus the mind. I
also believe that
once
this is done and done thoroughly, the literature to be
rehearsed gets
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
Warm-ups?"
It is reproduced in my book Choir Care: Building Sound
Technique. You
can
order it from the publications page in TAO every
month, near the front
of
each issue.

Good luck and bless you for keeping the faith even in
the face of
uninformed singers who do not understand ensemble
singing.

Marilyn (micki) Gonzalez



There's a related ChoralNet resource on this topic
(originally titled
"Why are warmups necessary?"):
choralnet.org > Rehearsal > General > Warmups > Choral
Warmups
(look closely for this title; there are several other
warmup articles
which aren't relevant)

Allen H Simon

-

Answer #1)
Despite the fact that vocal sound is produced by the
Bernoulli effect
on
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
all
athletes and sportspeople know, you must prepare
(warm-up) the muscles
beforehand in order to perform the sport to the best
of their ability
and
to increase the useful life of the muscles.
Sure, one can do physical activity without warming up
and that person
may
not notice the damage, especially if they always do it
without warming
up
(such as farmers, laborers, etc). But when they get
older, their
bodies
are worn out because of the fact they didn't care for
it properly.
Same
with the voice. I've got singers in my choir in their
80s, who are
fantastic singers - good clear tone with no wobble -
because they've
taken care of their voices.

Answer #2)
Because I'm the director, and I'm telling you it's
good for you.

Good luck!
Josh Peterson

-

Warm-ups focus the individual minds on the group
objective. It is the
time when all the disparate, self-focused singers bind
their many
skills
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
listening and
responding to what we hear. In the Atlanta Symphony
Chorus, Norman
McKenzie doesn't do vocalises to get the individual
voices to work; he
employs choral exercises designed to tune the
ensemble.

In my little treble choirs, I use warm-ups to either
engage energy or
to
calm and focus the children so that they are ready to
work as a group
on
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.

How's that???

Mary Hoffman

-

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!

Best wishes!
Sean DeBoth

-

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
"singing" range;

2) so the individual can focus on choir and remove
outside thoughts,
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
important, necessary
reasons.

Other reasons? To work a specific, difficult rhythm
pattern, note
pattern, vocal pattern, enumciation (incl. vowels and
hard consonants)

Doug Benton

-

Specifically for a group of know-it-all (or maybe
NO-it-all)
choristers,
perhaps the purpose of warmups is to pull them out of
what they might
each
KNOW individually, into the possibility of having a
shared EXPERIENCE
that
might transcend their individual knowledge.

Warmups even if they are only mental including
silence are
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
as
opportunities to clear away the tensions and debris
accumulated
throughout
the day, and refocus on creative and spiritual
potential. Then that
refocused energy can become available to the work of
the ensemble.

As in so many things, what we KNOW as individuals can
define the limits
of
our contribution to the work at hand, unless we are
willing to put
ourselves
at the service of that work. It is perfectly
reasonable for both the
individuals and the director to recognize that
individual choristers
may
have specific knowledge or experience beyond that of
the ensemble or
even
the director. But it is absolutely necessary for
those individuals to
put
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
between
what the individual singers bring to the rehearsal and
the rehearsall
itself
so that the individual has a chance to take
something different away
with
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
our
singers.

Beyond that, it is necessary for the director to
devise warmups that
are not
simply perfunctory, but that address the specific
needs of both the
ensemble
and the music at that particular time and for that
particular
repertoire.
Sometimes a moment of silent and focused breathing can
be more valuable
than
all of the scales and arpeggios in the world.

Charles Q. Sullivan



Unanimity of approach to, well, everything. Vowels
sounds, color,
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
they have!).

David Griggs-Janower

-

In the case of any choir that is less that fully
professional, I
consider warm-ups to be an opportunity to teach vocal
technique and to
develop tone, without the extra demands of a certain
piece of
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
instance).

Linda A. Beaupré

-

Warm-up with a purpose - body alignment, vocal
technique, readying the
voice
for specific problems found in the repertoire and
sightsinging/tonal
memory/ear training exercises. Perhaps if you
developed a repertoire
of
vocal warm-ups to address various ways of warming up
the body, mind and
spirit. Address posture through body lining up
(Alexander Technique
and
body mapping), develop warm-ups that address open
vowels and lifted
soft
palate, loose jaw, etc. Also give them some ear
training as part of
the
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
things.
This year I started teaching at a high school that has
a wonderful
choral
reputation. The teacher that was there before me is a
fantastic
pianist not
a singer and I am a singer not a pianist. Our
approach to choral music
is
very different. I do a great deal of rehearsing
without a piano. At
first
the students were openly opposed to this way, but now
more and more of
them
are realizing that they are singing with a better tone
quality and in
better
tune because of the way they have been rehearsing.
Stick to your guns
and
you will eventually get them to come around to your
way of thinking.
Debbie Mello

-

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.

Matthew

-

I have found that my students (high school) are quite
capable of
producing a
good choral tone. HOWEVER, they don't do it
automatically. We need to
do
several minutes of focused warm-ups to get their
brains and voices
focused.
Without them (warm-ups), the songs are generally more
assaulted than
sung.
It is also an opportunity to tune and balance their
voices with one
another,
and (don't tell them this one), come into submission
to your
leadership.

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
balance, etc.

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
for.

Regards,
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
found
that when I do them using the vocal skills needed in
the music we are
working on, even I focus better, and therefore retain
proper techniques
longer.

Mary



However good the singers, warming up is required at 2
levels:

Each voice needs to be warmed up and this could be
achieved
individually.
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
finest
choirs if there is absolute consistency of vowel
sounds. This can ony
be
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
you
wish to achieve.

Nigel Montagu

-

I'm working on my doctorate at the University of
Minnesota, and every
now
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
this
issue in the Journal of Voice, Volume 17, Number 2
(pp. 160ff) by
Tamara
Motel, Kimberly Fisher, and Ciara Leydon.

They studied the impact of warm-ups on the soprano
voice, versus the
lack of
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
and
thus serve to stablize the high voice (p. 160)."

In other words, the effect of doing vocal warm-ups has
been studied,
and one
set of researchers found that warm-ups loosen up the
vocal folds and
may
very well help you to sing higher with more stability.

Of course, we vocal folks already knew that, but it's
nice to have
research
to back it up.

-

What level of singers are we talking about here? Are
these
professionals who come already warmed up?

If not, the best explanation is that singing is partly
athletic and
it's
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
issueswarm-ups among
themonline.

Good luck.

David Schildkret



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
for
the muscles. You wouldn't do a workout at the gym
without a warm up
and
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
experienced.

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
them
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
good, experienced
set of singers to work with.

Anthony Toohey

-

I couldn't find this before, but I've located it now.
All your singers
should know this site:

http://www.lionsvoiceclinic.umn.edu/page4.htm

This is from the Lions Voice Clinic at University of
Minnesota, one of
the most respected centers for the treatment of voice
disorders. The
discussion linked above, on vocal hygiene, needs to be
a bible for all
singers. It deals not only with warm-ups (giving the
athletic analogy
I
mentioned in my previous message), but hydration and
host of other
important issues.

I'd suggest that you make a copy of these pages for
each chorister.

David Schildkret



I don't do warmups. I find it much more efficient and
just as
effective
simply to spend the first 10-15 minutes of rehearsal
on easier
repertoire,
something not loud and in the middle range of most
singers... hymns and
folksongs work great for this.

Tim Getz

-

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
limits.

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
body?

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

Paul Stanley

-

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.
They identify.

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
UP.

Enough said.

Hope this helps.

Kenny Stultz



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
singing.

L. Kearney

-

Hi, Simon,
I've discarded the phrase "warm-ups" for "vocal
technique," instead.
For a short period of time, we focus intently on
breathing exercises and
some vocalise to transition from the talking voice to
the singing
voice. We always finish with tuning/ear training (and
then sight-singing:
SOLFEGE EVERY DAY!).

For what it's worth,
Dave DeHoogh-Kliewer

-

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
our "performance."

Also, our goal is to work WITH those around us, not
out-perform them.
This requires concentration and mental effort on the
groups part,
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
it.

Craig

-

Singing is as much an athletic activity as it is an
aesthetic one
(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
tune-ups?

In addition, I find personally that warm ups are
prime time for
teaching aural and reading skills as well as improving
vocal skills.

Sometimes easy rep. can be used as warmups but after
the physical
relaxation and breathing activities have been done.
Those are
fundamental!


Good luck in defending your stance.


Hilary Apfelstadt

-

The fact that they believe they do not need to warm up
only reinforces
the
impression that they are the very ones who need it.
Ask them if they
would
run the 100-meter hurdles without stretching first
or a mile, for
that
matter or play a football match without
conditioning in advance.
The
voice is no different from any other set of muscles
and needs attention
and
care to be used properly. They cannot shepherd their
vocal resources
with
care and thought if they have not warmed up in advance
to know how well
the
equipment is working that day. Bring in an expert
voice teacher to
work
with them someone with impeccable chops as a vocal
technician and
then
see what happens to their questions.

Good luck to you!

Jonathan Miller

-

Well, what I have done in similar situations, I've
tried to talk to
them and
settle things in the good manner. But if none of this
work, I have to
ask
them to leave the choir. Try to deal with them first,
if they don't
want to
cooperate with you, take them out.

David

-

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
real music.

Good questionI've heard it many times from high
school students!

Jack Burnam

-

Warm-ups are much more than warm-ups.

The following can and should be accomplished in the
"warm-up" period:

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
an instrument."

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!
Ann Healy



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

Simon Loveless
simonloveless(a)yahoo.com.au



Find local movie times and trailers on Yahoo! Movies.
http://au.movies.yahoo.com
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!

Enjoy reading:

-

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
events.

Daniel Farris

-

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
since
no one offered a viewpoint from a religious
perspective, I want to add
my
two cents. Even if your choir is not one formed for
religious purposes,
you
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
secular position
comparable
to the principles I bring up........

1- While people should never be "shamed" into becoming
better singers,
they
should be reminded that in a religious setting all the
work is meant
for the
glorification of God. Because this is true every
effort should be made
by
singers to "give of their best to the Master," as a
well-known hymn
begs
true believers.

On the secular side of this point is the fact that
audiences, while
forgiving of children most of the time, are not
necessarily so with
those
who can and should "do what it takes" to win their
approval. This
correlates, I think, with the idea that a choir which
does what it can
to
please its audiences with the best singing it can
develope will enjoy
larger
audiences- certainly a reflection on the amount of
pleasure they are
deriving from the group over time. Also, a choir
showing its ability
and
intent to continually strengthen its sounds will make
your recruiting
efforts easier and more fruitful, yielding you members
that will not be
so
obstinate about improving the quality of sound coming
from their
instruments.

2- The Bible speaks of believers who are "of one
mind." "Laying aside
the
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
in
people. There is much to be gained from singing in the
best voice
possible
other than the physical benefits for those engaged in
singing for
religious
ends.

That mirrors, of course, what others have said much
better than I about
the
sense of community that singing can and should
develope generally, and
the
many attendant benefits other than physical ones to be
shared.

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
of a
choir. I believe that discipline of the voice, in
order to glorify God
as
fully as possible within our "temples," is not
something unreasonable
to ask
of those who desire to grow in their discipleship.
True discipleship is
not
without some amount of self-sacrifice for others, and
often is even
painful.
While we don't want to put singers in pain, so to
speak, we certainly
must
remind them of the "laying aside of self" for the
service of others.
Since
some view the choir as worship leaders, they
necessaily have an impact
on
those who hear them. The choir must choose, as much as
possible, that
the
individual and collective "sacrifices" they make
through warmups, that
serve
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
stresses,
sometimes
to a great degree, in order to exact from their bodies
the responses
needed
from them to "gain the gold." By doing so, not only do
they remind us
of the
wonderful capabilities of the human body, but also of
the often
spectacular
results achieved by those willing to endure what are
many times
uncomfortable routines. Not only that, but they draw
others to their
particular sport and set standards others try to at
least equal, if not
"best."

best wishes
Cecil Rigby

-

Thanks again to all respondents

Simon Loveless
simonloveless(a)yahoo.com.au

Find local movie times and trailers on Yahoo! Movies.
http://au.movies.yahoo.com
on March 31, 2005 10:00pm
Vocal Warmups are no different to a football team getting ready to play a scrimage.. they are extremely important and you CANNOT sing without them or else you will damage your voice . thats all there is to it..

sorry if I am being blunt but it's true if they don't like it they shouldn't be in choir to begin with
on May 4, 2005 10:00pm
Having sung in a University Choir for the past three years I can justify the value of warmups. I am a elementary school music teacher which requires use of my voice all day! As one of your responders rightfully stated, your speaking voice uses a much smaller range than your singing voice. It is therefore crucial for me to gradually warm my vocal chords and gradually extend my vocal range during the first 7 - 10 minutes of choir practice. Secondly, because it is often a rush to get there on time - almost 45 minutes of driving in traffic, the warmups help me to regain a sense of calm, while focussing on vocal techniques which are necessary for successful completion of the day's repertoire. I believe it also helps the conductor to quickly assess the areas which may need particular emphasis during the rest of the rehearsal.

I hope this is helpful for both singers as well as choral directors since I read a few responses form chral directors which indicated that there is no value in warm ups!