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Warm up for adult choir

Hi all:
There are several threads here concerning warming up juvenile choirs, but I don't see any regarding warming up an adult choir. Does anyone have recommendations?
We are very technically competent -  but we always spend 10 or 15 minutes having a 'fun' warmup that is nevertheless relevant to the repertoire we'll be working on. We have one or two concerts a month, and the 'rolling' repertoire (a slowly-changing core with the occasional one-off piece thrown into the mix) is sung off-copy. So, we don't so much need basic technical practice as specific things like singing semitones against each other, two choirs together and so on.
on October 15, 2009 10:24am
There are many ChoralNet resources on this topic here. They continue on the second page.
on October 15, 2009 3:19pm
To change things and especially if there is a particular place in a piece where we are having a problem ...I create a vocal warm-up exercise out of a few measures .  I change the syllables but not necessarily the vowel sounds or the rhythm.  Basically trying to kiil two birds with one stone.  I never tell the choir that it is from the piece until we are working on the actual music.
on October 15, 2009 5:07pm
I conduct the Sno-King Communtiy Chorale just north of Seattle in a little town called Edmonds, WA. I decided long ago to allow anyone who wanted to sing in our group. So, we are a non-audition Chorale. We have 112 of the most wonderful folks any conductor could ever ask to for. We have folks from 18 to 81 in our group. I find that I have to be careful of too much standing. It just doesn't work to have folks on their feet for too long. So, I have come up with an exercise that I use during vocal warm-ups that really is making a positive difference.
Have your choir sit a little forward in their chairs, backs straight, feet flat on the floor. Take a big breath and then have them lift their feet off of the floor, and then have them sing on lah notes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-hold it and then 5,4,3,2 1. then up and or down in half steps. Each time, relaxing, taking a big breat, lifting the feet and singing the exercise. This helps the breathing muscles, builds up the abs and energizes the sound. it works.
I use the Bel Canto approach to good vocal techniques. Vowels are my secret. If I can get good clean and vibrant sounding vowels I knwo we are on our way. I don't not push the voices during warm-ups. There is no reason to push the voice anyway. I would rather build from what is good that accent vocal problems.
I also encourage good health practices: working out 3 to 4 times a week, eating appropriate foods, getting good sleep, lots of veggies, chicken, fish, and lots of water.
Good luck with your program.
Frank DeMiero
on October 16, 2009 8:47am
I learned from several voice gurus that half—or more—of a vocal warmup should be about the body as a whole. Then the vocalise works quickly, and will "draw sound from the whole person."
With my 16-voice volunteer chorus in Los Angeles, if there's 15 minutes for warmup, 8-10 is just the body. Shaking out, loosening neck & shoulders & jaw, stretching ribcage, even mini-neck&shoulder massages on each other, really pay off. I discourage chit-chat during this time, but tolerate laughter, groans, other reflexive body-meets-voice eruptions. Especially since the singers have just car-pooled 30-60 minutes in L.A. rush hour, I'll say "shake that freeway off your shoulders" or "Exhale everything that's weighed on your mind today; the important stuff will wait for you by the door." So I'm inviting people to be physically & emotionally PRESENT, with & music and with each other, as well as preparing the body/mind for singing.
I love Frank's exercise (below) of sitting & lifting feet while singing, & will start using it! But I'd probably do 1 or 2 rounds on a silent exhale first, to enhance focus on the low-ab muscles, before adding sound.
cheers -
on October 16, 2009 10:54am
With my choirs and my school music students I use exercises from the William Vennard Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic. First, getting everyone to begin to relax, clear the stale air out of the lungs, breathe in warm air through the nose, exhale, etc. The the "sighs" followed by descending five notes (pentatonic) - warming the lower ranges first (but quietly), then slowly warming the upper range and increasing the volume a bit. After that triads up and down (eg: c-e-g-e-c) using pure vowel sounds, but preceeded by an "H" to give focus and force as well as to initiate support (haha-hoho-hehe).... then differing patterns using the vowels preceeded by hard consonants (p-t-d-z)... after that, and depending on the group, I work on intervals - mostly solfeggio, do re, do mi, etc... then descending - and in different keys.
While the exercises change a bit from rehearsal to rehearsal, the technique is still reinforced.
on November 9, 2009 7:47pm
Hi, Tony--
   For choirs of all ages, I love Kenneth Jennings's Sing Legato.  The exercises in it are great for perfecting each interval and for playing around with different articulations and musical notions.  
To directly address your semitones question, have your singers practice a chromatic scale.  They'll really have to key their ears in to get it spot on.  Once they've completely mastered it, have the men (or low voice parts, if you prefer) sing the chromatic scale bottom-up, and the women (or high voice parts) sing it top-down.  They should have a competent unison at the tritone, which is harder to create than it seems!
Hope this is helpful!
AJ Lund
on April 1, 2011 8:01am
It seems to me there are at least 2 schools of thought on this.  I know some folks who do their routine of warm-ups that they have developed and gleaned from their own experience without fail at every rehearsal.  Others focus on a technical/vocal challenge they intend to focus on and make that the focus of their warm-up.  There is some merit in some predicatable warm-ups as a focusing event for adult singers, whose experiences runs the gamut.  But I look to tailor my warm-ups on the things/issues I want to focus on.  In general, I too think Kenneth Jennings' "Sing Legato" has things to offer, as well as a hymnal or Bach Chorales.  Another thing I find is that often I hear very little carryover between concepts in warm-up and practical application vis-a-vis the music.  I think that is the ultimate determining it just a time killer (the warm up), or does it really translate into something desireable.
Daniel Fry
First United Methodist Church of St. Charles (MO)
on April 2, 2011 6:27am
I sometimes begin warm-ups with my non-auditioned community chorus with just laughter.   Ha ha ha, Ho ho ho, hee hee hee, etc.  We vary between low and high laughs.   Everyone imitates my lead.   We usually move our bodies, swinging our arms.  Twenty seconds and we're done. 
It energizes the body and brain and puts people in a good place to begin the actual warm-ups.
Nick Page
on April 3, 2011 12:45pm
I agree with Daniel Fry, above, that warm ups can be a big waste of time. I think it's more productive to think of starting a rehearsal with a period of vocalization, where singers give some thought to the their bodies as instruments and to the mechanics of singing. It's the 5-10 minutes a week where the director can really teach vocal technique. Robert Fountain was a genius at this, constructing vocalizations that grew out of musical and vocal challenges in the repertoire being prepared. So, for example, instead of endlessly correcting the vowels in Latin texts during rehearsal, the director might construct vocalizations using a given text like Credo in unum deum.
I've been in qutie a few ensembles where the warm up was just an opportunity for singers to further practice bad vocal habits--where every choir member had a different concept of the vowel, breathing was shallow and unsupported, and singers were sitting with legs crossed, arms crossed in front of them, etc. When I work with children, I like to talk about "taking our instruments out of the case," the way a trumpet player or flute player does. The instrument has to be ready to make music. But it's just as true for adults.
on April 22, 2011 8:22pm
In my approximately 30 member choir, 9 of them have master's degrees in music (two of them are instructors).  Because of this, I am blessed to have some great resources for more ideas on warming up.
One of the things I "stole" from a former Minister of Music was having the choir sing (a cappella) a chromatic scale.  Beginning on C and using the word "do" they would ascend and descend.  Now, this doesn't do as much for technique, but has seemingly help them with ear training (which has been beneficial).
We also do warmups for Alto/Bass and Tenor/Soprano.    By this I mean, we DO NOT keep vocalizing up the scale and have our low voices screaming (as I have experienced in my years). 
We do a lot of deep breaths with pulsing hissing exhales.   We do a lot of portamento exercises using our hands (in a soaring motion) to help visualize and get the whole body involved. 
Again, I have (in recent years) been primarily an organist/pianist, but have learned some wonderful things from observing other rehearsals.   You figure what will work best for your choir and always look for ways to improve.
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