In episode 14 and 15 of ChoralEd we continue our series on vocal exercises with a discussion of vocal warm-ups for tone development and mental activation.
In Episode 14, Heather Orr discusses her incorporation of vocal exercises for tone development. In conjunction with each vocal exercise, Mrs. Orr frequently incorporates kinesthetic movement. In general, the exercises incorporated by Mrs. Orr focus on what she refers to as “shelf singing,” in which the singers focus their resonance above the cheekbone.
In Episode 15, ChoralEd host Micah Bland discusses vocal exercises for mental activation. As students arrive from their various classes in which they passively listen to a lecture or complete bookwork, it’s beneficial to challenge them with vocal exercises that activate the brain. One simple approach to encourage mental activation includes altering the interval between each repetition of a vocal exercise. Traditionally, a half step is used between each repetition of a vocal exercise. The repetitiveness of this interval establishes an expectation that can lead to a lack of student focus during the vocal warm-up. Instead, consider changing this interval to a whole step or alternating between half and whole steps. In addition, asking students to audiate various pitches during an exercise is another simple way to encourage mental activation.
Specific exercises that encourage mental activation include “Reverse Solfege” and “Continuous Solfege.” The exercise “Reverse Solfege” challenges students by asking them to translate a series of pitches into solfege, encouraging aural development. Finally, the exercise “Continuous Solfege” activates the brain by requiring students to continuously think ahead. In this exercise the director shows three solfege hand signs using a rhythmic pattern of three quarter notes followed by a quarter rest. After showing these first three hand signs, the students begin to sing while the teacher simultaneously shows the next three solfege syllables. This sequence continues without pause until the director stops showing solfege hand signs. (View episode 15 at time marker 2:21 and 4:51 for a demonstration of these exercises).