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Brain Gym exercises

My adult community choirs can sometimes need enlivening during rehearsal. I use "brain gym" activities for this. In sharing this, I hope others will contribute ideas.
We first sing the well known "Frère Jacques" through once. We then repeat it, replacing the French words by singing "One, two, three, four" over and over again. That's the end of the easy bit.
We now sing the tune with the words (repeated over and over) to "One, two, three. four, five". Initially, this is tricky because the 4/4 time of the tune and the 5/4 count is conflicting.
We progress by counting 1,2,3,4,5,6 and then onto 1,2,3,4,5,6,7. To test the best, we sing 1,2,3,4,5,6;1,2,3,4,5;1,2,3,4;1,2,3;1,2;1;1;2;3;4;5;6 and so on.
Finally, we return to singing 1,2,3,4,5 but clapping on the first beat of every 4/4 bar.
The exercise invariably ends up chaotically, with lots of laughter and a woken-up group of singers.
Any other ideas?
Peter Gambie
The Renaissance Choir
Southampton Choral Society
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on February 3, 2012 8:00am
One I use to enliven singers afetr lunch on a one-day workshop ...
Sing the Grand Old Duke of York a couple of times through (to make sure everyone knows it and is singing the same version!).
Next, replace the word 'up' with a clap. Nobody should sing the word 'up' (they will at first), just clap each time.
Next, replace the word 'down' with a stamp.
Run through a few times until people have got it.
Then ... YOU sing it (not them). Start and then fade out, keeping time with your hand. They 'sing' silently in their heads and clap instead of 'up' and stamp instead of 'down'. Try speeding it up. Works a treat!!
I'm always looking for similar games. Somebody told me about singing My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean then replacing every word beginning with 'B' (bonny, bring, back) with an action. You can then move onto other letters. Haven't tried this yet.
Suffolk, UK
on February 3, 2012 12:33pm
Sing a scale on solfege as follows:
do, do-re-do, do-re-mi-re-do, etc. and when you get to the top, reverse the order do, do-ti-do, do-ti-la-ti-do, etc.  This can be done in a round up to having it start on every beat. You can also add a clap on a particular syllable - do works well. Alternatively, when not in a round, replace a syllable with a snap or clap.  The more you replace, the more difficult it is.  
on February 3, 2012 11:31pm
I've done this as well, but added the skips, e.g. after do re mi re do, they sang do mi do, and so forth to learn/reinforce intervals other than steps and half steps.
on February 20, 2012 8:04am
when they get comfortable with that, try starting on a different syllable - re, re mi re, re mi fa mi re, etc... start on all of them and you'll see good benefit
on February 3, 2012 1:54pm
I learned this one from my supervising teacher while student teaching.
The group sings, "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," but on every word that begins with the letter "B," they alternate sitting/standing position.  For example, if they begin sitting down...
"My Bonnie lies over the ocean, my Bonnie lies over the sea, my Bonnine lies over the ocean, oh bring back my Bonnie to me..."
      (stand)                                 (sit)                                 (stand)                                  (sit)  (stand)   (sit)
on February 17, 2012 6:27am
Yes - I know this one too.  I've then gone on to expand where the choir is divided into two groups.  One group sings only the words that start with the letter B, while the others sing only the words that do not start with the letter B.  Then to take it another step furthur, have the entire group sing just one set or the other.  This way they're expanding their inner singing as well as waking up the brain.
You can also do something similar with "Ode to Joy", having some people sing do, mi and sol, while other sing the rest of the pitches.
on February 4, 2012 10:07am
I've just finished an arduous day-long recording session with one of my choirs. Naturally, it was a tense and tiring day.
I incorporated several of these suggestions, which were perfect for breaking down tension and enlivening the choir.
Thanks to all for the examples. Perhaps there are other ideas to add?
Peter Gambie
on February 5, 2012 8:07am
Just a quick question: is there a published collection of these types of warm-ups? My students love these kinds of challenges and ask for more on a daily basis!
Mr. Shannon W. Mack
Crescenta Valley High School
on February 15, 2012 11:01pm
Thank you for this Peter!!  I had a giggle fest sitting here trying all of your versions of the Frere Jacques.  Definitely the 1-7, then 1-6 etc was hardest.  I'm going to try this with my choir tomorrow!!
on February 16, 2012 12:40pm
123454321234567898989876565654321& Or solfege  (transpose up or down, ad lib)
from this pattern, my friend Steav and I created endless permutations of canons. of many types.
Challenge your singers to dream up other tortures based in the simple pattern. Smokin'
on February 17, 2012 11:33am
Sing a familiar song like "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" and have each voice part sing one note. In an SATB setting, if the sopranos start, they would sing "My...of...of...of...etc." while the other voice parts each sing every fourth note. Variations include singing staccato or legato.
Another exercise for any familiar song is to have the choir sing every second, third, or fourth note out loud while singing the other syllables silently in their heads. This can also be done with a scale.
on February 18, 2012 8:35am
I'll often start a vocal warm-up by telling the choir to sing a major or minor chord. I give them a couple of beats so they all start together, singing whatever note comes into their heads. They need to listen and adapt but I find the chord establishes itself very quickly, often within 5 - 15 seconds. It's important, of course, that no pitch has been played or sung prior to this.
I ask my more advanced choir to sing major and minor sevenths, or inversions of triads.
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