Monday, March 11, 2019

How to keep your warm ups and singing sessions fresh and engaging

I teach singing workshops across the UK. I’m lucky to get a lot of the same singers turning up each time.

Which means that I can’t keep on using the same old jokes or worn out warm up routines. Here’s how I keep things fresh.

It’s easy to keep rehashing the same old thing – especially if you run a choir week in, week out.

It takes energy, thought and planning to keep creating new warm ups and different angles on basic singing and rehearsal techniques.

But if you don’t keep things fresh, your singers will either get bored (and maybe leave) or will zone out and not engage with what you’re trying to teach.

How can you keep refreshing things without too much extra work?

We can get inspiration from ideas about reducing waste in our lives. Here’s my approach.

  • reduce – as time goes by you can find that your warm up routines become more and more elaborate as you try to fit everything in. As spring approaches, maybe it’s time to do some ruthless pruning. Cut away the waste and really focus on what you’re trying to impart to your singers. The clearer and simpler you can be, the greater chance your singers will understand.
  • reuse – it’s amazing how many great warm up exercises and rehearsal techniques get shoved to the back of the cupboard and forgotten. Take time to look at things you’ve used in the past that you might have forgotten or not done in a while. Brush them off and reuse them today with all that your singers have learnt in the meantime.

    Another way to reuse is to develop. Each time you do a specific exercise set yourself the challenge of taking it a bit further or adding an extra element. Not only will this keep it fresh for your singers, but it will set you a creative challenge (see How to develop perfect warm up exercises for your choir).
  • repurpose – or re-contextualise. An exercise in one area can have use in a completely different context. It might be as simple as doing a familiar exercise, but asking your singers to focus on something they don’t usually focus on. For example, you might do an interval training exercise that everyone is familiar with. You could try the same exercise, but ask your singers to focus on blend with the other singers. Try different vowels each time. Same exercise, different focus.

    Another way to repurpose is to introduce different imagery when presenting an exercise. Same exercise, but a way of bringing a different angle to it. For example, a simple stretch up with the arms. Ask your singers to visualise that they’re pressing down on water as their arms come down. This will engage abdominal muscles better.
  • recycle – don’t get stuck with the same set of exercises that you bring out each time. Remember that you have a whole set of exercises and techniques that you can cycle through. Keep records of the exercises you know and find ways to mix and match them. Do some familiar ones with some newer ones. Keep changing.
All the above apply equally well to jokes and anecdotes. If you find yourself making the same wise cracks or telling the same old stories, maybe it’s time to freshen those up too.

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Chris Rowbury



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