How to build a warm-up

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I wrote these notes for a session at Magenta’s retreat back in September in which a team of seven choir members prepared and led one element each of the warm-up. This was part of our general principle of handing round leadership in various activities as a way to develop the choir as a whole through experiencing different people’s perspectives, and the individuals within it through the act of leading. It was also intended as a way to raise everyone’s awareness of the elements of warming up and thus increase our sense of purpose as we engage with it each week.

As so often happens when I’ve written some notes for Magenta, I thought: you know, other people might find these useful too. Let’s publish this as a blog post. So here you go.

1. Content

A choral warm-up needs all the following elements. They don’t have to be all separate, though - one activity/exercise can serve two or three functions. For example, our ‘lock and ring’ exercise is for both ear and ensemble, while numbers games are for brain, but sung in different keys can also warm up our range.


2. Execution

The goal is for the group to spend much more time doing the activity than it takes to explain it. So, things that can be explained or demonstrated quickly and then repeated lots of times are good.

Repetition also presents the opportunity to refine how things are done, so monitor how people are getting on, and add corrections or reminders between repetitions as need be, so that each iteration improves on the last. (Things generally get better on repetition anyway, since practice always helps, but checking for things we know how to do but sometimes forget - posture, lifting the face, teeth, vowel shape, etc - means we can use the warm-up to reconnect with our already-acquired skills.)

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