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Warm-ups: Fun warm-ups

I sent this the first time without the latest response. Here is an
amended version. Thanks! ~Christina

Thanks to all who sent ideas.

Original post:

Hi Listers,

I've been reading through the archives and haven't found anything
specific to what I want to find so far, so thought I'd ask my
question then compile the answers I get.

The community choir I co-direct has a very wide range of ages in it--
from tiny tykes up to a retiree. This past fall, the other directors
and I worked hard on improving the sound of the choir and
successfully introducing singing in parts. We had amazing results
for our winter concert, but have lost a contingency of our smallest
members to the hallway outside the rehearsal room, as they were
bored. What we are planning to do to try to engage these youngest
kids is to make the warm-ups and first fifteen minutes of the hour-
long rehearsal more fun. After that, if they end up outside the
room, so be it, but we want to try to include them again. We have
lots of music game ideas, but I am hoping you will be able to provide
me with some unusual or kid-friendly warm-ups with which to begin our

Thanks much,
Christina Kennedy
The All Together Now Family Chorus
Littleton, MA USA


Try the following:

Many mumbling mice, making mighty music in the moonlight, mighty nice!

The pitches are shown below...feel free to start on a higher key. You
can proceed up or down as you wish, but speed up slightly with each new
key. At the end, go as fast as you can, and still make the words
understandable! The adults will laugh as much as the kids!

Good luck!

Mark Downey


Try singing "den-tal floss is ve-ry good for teeth" while moving up
and down from do to sol to do.

Create silly word combinations to use while doing triads or single
note warmups, like "double bubble gum" or "quadruple double bubble
gum," etc.

Have them THINK the pitches of a triad, then have them sing every
other note.

Have each section solfege the scale, starting at different times,
then on the descent have your sop/top voices stay on the tonic, and
the others stop at the 6th, 4th, and 2nd respectively, not resolving
the chord until cued by you.

Basically do anything to catch their attention while still teaching
good vocal technique.

David Springstead
Contemporary Worship Leader
Community UMC
Virginia Beach, VA

"He who is willing to sacrifice liberty for a little temporary
safety, deserves neither liberty, nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin


Two books:
The Complete Choral Warm-up Book by Russell Robinson
The Choral Warm-up Collection-Sally Albrecht

Both have some fun warm-ups and offer advice on overall vocal
training. I would
suggestion a lot of movement for the kids. Possibly, provide a big
space for
to move about, and give them something specfic to do....move waving
their arms,
crawl, jump, walk and then on cadences have them make a pose. Find
simple things
for them to do that are related to the music, tossing ball (gently) to a
clapping games, folk dances and even drawing. They will pop in and
out, and
sometimes with younger children the more the hear it the better!

Hope this helps,

Allyn Phelps


Rounds can teach technique, develop part singing and be tons of fun!
Mike Wade


Start by having everyone hiss for 16 seconds. You count down from 16
to one - but instead of saying "one" you say "How many made it [raise
your hand]? Great! Can you do it from 20? Remember: relax, take a
deep breath, and save your air at the beginning - start quietly!"
Then give them a chance to take a deep breath, start, and count down
from 20 to four, then say "louder, louder, louder" for the last three
seconds. Go immediately into the next exercise: Soo-soh-sah-seh-see
on do-mi-so-mi-do, moving up by half-steps.

Sing the alphabet quickly, using a 5-note scale up and down three
times, ending do - si - do on x - y- z. Start slowly and at a low
pitch (the goal is tongue quickness and distinct consonants, not
range extension). Sing in the front half-inch of the face (use the
tip of the tongue, not the middle).

Sing to the enunciators: "Lips, Teeth, Tip-of-the-tongue" so - la -
fa-fa-fa-fa, fa - so - mi-mi-mi-mi, mi - fa - re-re-re-re, re - mi -

Do about four exercises that are exciting like these at the beginning
to establish your command, then do a couple "boring" ones - which are
probably for intonation, so don't go very long on them. Also, do not
pause even for a second between exercises. Give the instructions
immediately, practice it once, let them get a good breath, and go!

Good luck!

-john hoffacker
Music Director, Church of the Epiphany, Plymouth MN



1. Controlled body movement with pulse including: breaths over a
number of counts, with hand/arm movements which facilitate breath.
"Swinging" from the middle, like a bell.

2. "Many mumbling mice, making midnight music in the moonlight:
mighty nice." Kids like this, and is triadic.
Vary mode major/minor.
Emphasize the voiced quality of the /m/.
Pitch: 1,1,1,1,1 - / 5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5- / 5,3,1 //
Rhythm: 4/4: eeeeh / sssssssseq. / qqh // [add precise rests for

Numbers = scale degrees
Letters: q = quarter note, e = 8th, s = 16th, dot = augmentation
dot, / = barline.

3. "r,p,t,k" and "r, b, d, g"

Practice articulating this consonants in any practical rhythm: (roll
r vigorously)
Emphasize the differences and similarities between the voiced and
unvoiced versions of the same articulation.
Emphasize the silly fun part with them, but also let everyone know
the practical application with diction.

Paul Meers

on February 6, 2007 10:00pm
I have culled several Gilbert & Sullivan patter songs (I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General, My Name is JOhn Wellington Wells, etc.) and have the kids memorize these and recite them en masse as a diction and ensemble warm-up, getting progressively faster. I also have them sing the alphabet in rounds using 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-5-1 in major and minor keys.

I try to divide my warm-up period in short segments - physical, breath, diction and range extender to keep their attention, make it fun and develop technique as well as tone.

"The Perfect Blend" is also a good resource for warm-up activities.

Good luck!
on June 26, 2007 10:00pm
i belive a really fun warm up is bumble bee, bumble bee, bumble bee, bumble bee, bee bee bumble, bee bee bumble, bee bee bumble, bumble bee. its nice and us kids love it. our chorus teacher mr. hurne taught us that one.
on March 18, 2008 10:00pm
You can use tongue twisters. Like Who washed Washington's white woolen underwear when Washington's washer woman went west. It is really fun.
on July 9, 2008 10:00pm
I learned this one from singing in Margaret Hillis' choir at Northwestern many years ago: on a descending scale, sing TEE DEE NEE LEE REE on each pitch, rolling the R. Then sing another descending scale, a half-note higher, on TA DA NA LA RA. Then TO DO NO LO RO, then TOO DOO NOO LOO ROO.

Jim Millar
Choral Director
Tenafly HS, New Jersey
on September 22, 2008 10:00pm
One pitch warm up for diction:

99 nuns in an indiana nunnary
cccccccccccccc c#c# (etc.)

Choral/Orchestra teacher
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 10, 2008 10:00pm
This is a really cool warmup...It is with notes starting low and as the numbers get higher so does that note. The numbers go from 1-8 and every time you say a number it is the same pitch every time. It is a very catchy tongue twister.

you say:

When you get here you start down the scale but the numbers are the same.
87654321(you hold the one at the end.)

I hope someone likes it!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on March 1, 2013 8:52am
same pattern done with:
do re do
do re mi re do
do re mi fa mi re do
do re mi fa sol fa mi re do
do re mi fa sol la sol fa mi re do
do re mi fa sol la ti la sol fa mi re do
do re mi fa sol la ti do ti la sol fa mi re do
eventually add the solfege . . . 
on May 8, 2015 10:15am
Dear Christina,
In response to your original question about what to do with the kiddies after these fun warmups are finished, perhaps consider a separate rehearsal area for them to learn the melody or a descant for about 20 minutes, then rejoin the main chorus to put what they just learned into action, standing them next to the section singing that part and finishing off the rehearsal with the entire chorus   This could be done with a pre-recorded accompaniment if necessary, but if the part is simple enough, it might be better for them to hear themselves singing a cappella or with a simple accompaniment that keeps them on pitch.  Recordings of the full work could be played for them to put the sound into their ears.  Kids don't hear choirs except at church, and some church choirs are only a handful of singers.    
If you have lots of children, consider pieces for unison children's choir and SATB adult choir.  Rutter's "Look to the World" is lovely. There's a nice youtube video of it with the lyrics shown below the images.   To assess the difficulty level for your singers, there's another video with the music scrolling along as the Cambridge Singers sing for you:
There's a lot of unison singing even in the adult parts, alternating men/women/children. The a cappella verse is lovely, but  you could sneak a little quiet accompaniment at first.   As a church musician, my suggestions for a concert are almost always sacred music of concert quality like this Rutter piece, but there are many pieces written for children/SATB choirs that are not religious.  
Something along these lines could become a nice standard.  That's another key factor - if you repeat some repertoire each season, the children who return will be happy singing something they know, and can be paired with newer children as mentors.  If the children are featured in at least one piece for each concert, they are likely to take ownership of their particular responsibility in the chorus. Their time spent apart from the full choir gives them a purpose.  It's also possible to take another piece and give the children a verse of their own in alternation with SATB or along with SA voicings.  
Is sightsinging being taught?  The more the children (and adults)  learn to read music, the less bored they will be in any rehearsal.   Easier said than done, I know.  I'm currently reading John Bertalot's 5 Wheels to Sight Singing on my Kindle, and although it may feel a little dated, I'm enjoying it.  
Many thanks for all these terrific warmups - some new, some I've seen, some I've done, but having all in one place is marvelous.  I just compiled a set for my next rehearsal.  And now, I"m going to turn off Youtube and go back to work!!!!   oh, nooooo, Lauridsen's Dirait-on from Les Chansons des Roses is playing.........ahhhhhh, cannot turn off!  
Good luck with your wonderful intergenerational chorus - a terrific idea!