written by: Sarah Malburg
• edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom
• updated: 9/22/2012
Getting your kids to sing can be a little bit of a struggle. Make singing fun by using silly choir warmups and enjoyable song selections that will help encourage your students to open up and use their voices in a way they never knew possible.
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Things Are Warming Up
The hardest thing about starting a chorus is getting your kids to sing. Now I know you're thinking, "Well, then why did they sign up in the first place?" Please let me explain.
Students often associate singing with vulnerability and identity exposure. They are fearful of being teased and humiliated. This is similar to the fear of public speaking. Both provide an outlet for revealing one’s self and often draw unwanted public attention to a person. Children are most uncomfortable with this because they are amidst building self-esteem and reputation with peers. In other words, “Singing is not cool."
In order to help them relax and appreciate singing with their peers and for their peers, there are many fun choir warm ups that are easily accessible. Here are a few good ones the kids really enjoy:
Breathing Exercises: These are great for getting students to use their diaphragms and warm up their vocal chords. I have my students breath in through their nose, hold for 4 counts, and then let out through their mouths saying SSS (like a snake) I have them do this both as loudly and as quietly as possible. I just tell them to imagine they are a huge anaconda and then the smallest rattlesnake. They enjoy this. They all look silly and they have so much fun that they forget they are warming up. This exercise will help them to warm-up their vocal cords, open nasal passages and open their throats.
The Siren: I then have my students use their voice inflection and range to sound like a siren going up as high as they can and as low as they can for as long as they can. Just make sure they are not screaming or screeching - this will hurt their voices. I always demonstrate every exercise first and accompany them in order to make sure they are using their voices correctly.
Slidey C’s: Next I have my students sing the letter C going up a fifth and back down a 5th. (Much like Do-Sol-Do) but using a slide type voice, hence the name Slidey C. They think this is silly, too, but it will help them stretch their vocal cords.
M &M’s: I start from a comfortable middle range for my chorus (usually from low A to high C or D if they can make it for they are just beginning) and we sing Mommy Made Me Mash My M&M’s (from Do to Sol) and then I modulate to the next chord in the series. This helps with pitching matching and diction as well as again warming up the vocal passages. The kids get a huge kick out of this phrase and sometimes I will have them add “and Skittles" or "and Smarties" on the modulation. You can be creative here and even use gross foods. Just stick with whatever is humorous to your group. It will be more fun for them and they will be more accepting of singing.
Seven Sailors: This is a tongue twister that the kids find challenging and enjoy singing. We sing “Seven Sassy Sailors Sailed the" on Do and then we go to Sol and sing, “Seven Salty Seas" and then we modulate to the next chord/key. This is tricky but using tongue twisters and alliteration in chorus is great for diction practice.
If you are a new Vocal Music teacher or have recently switched to teaching Vocal Music, this series will give you information on how to establish and maintain a Chorus. The articles discuss using good communication skills, preparation tactics, rehearsal techniques, and equipment setup.