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  • Writer's pictureJeff Buettner

Warming up! Remote choirs included...

Read the following, and be ready to discuss these questions about the concept of "warming up," in breakout groups:

  • What do you like about warming up?

  • What don’t you like?

  • Is warming up necessary, or expendable?

  • Do you have a choral warm up memory to share?

This discussion is particularly oriented towards the notion of choirs in remote circumstances, but it applies to in-person choral singing as well. Specific exercises and ideas will follow.

Why warm up? How do vocal warm ups affect your life?

  • Singing is important to you! Warming up acknowledges, nurtures, and informs that value.

  • When you warm up, you check in with your physical and emotional self. The analytical process of evaluation of your physical sense, expanded needs for breathing, and emotional well being engages your intellectual self as well. 

  • Remind yourself what that value is: you have an instrument, it is beautiful, and can be used for beautiful purpose in choral singing.

  • Your instrument needs attention, just as you need to walk around after sitting a long time, stretch, brush your teeth, use skin moisturizer…and you can think of other things you do that have meaning for your body, mind, and overall sense of self.

  • Your intellect is nurtured by your sensitivity to your physical self, including your voice for its immediacy in your body and in its uses (for many people). We think faster than we speak, or sing, and singers invest a significant amount of intellect and emotional energy in using our voice.

What should I do to warm up?

  • You sing or have sung in choirs - put yourself in the room again.

Breathe, to take in oxygen, slow down, and prepare.

  • Think about how mind and muscle feel today.

Stretch, to relax, expand, and evaluate posture and general physical well-being.

  • Breathe deeply, reach far.

  • Wake up your face! Pat face arms, legs; gently stretch face, tongue, neck.

  • Shake out to reset posture: release in shoulders, neck, hips, torso, ribs.


  • Hum, to evaluate your voice today, and begin to resonate.

  • Enunciate something: exercise articulators.

  • Explore high and low range, always staying in touch with how you feel. Experiment in new sensations, and reinforce what comes naturally.


  • Check in with how you feel, again and again - how you progress through your warm up should be based partly on when you feel ready to move on, and in what direction you feel you should go.

  • Listen to and be sensitive to your instrument, and go where it needs you. You don’t need to follow a prescribed or abstract warm up schedule. Does your voice feel fuzzy? Sing more mid and low, softly with partial glottal attack. Feeling stunning? Go high and brilliant.

  • Goal: find your best singing feeling today, and spread that throughout the range that you have explored today. You may make some accommodations for extremes, but at this point you don’t really need the extremes, anyway.

When are you done warming up?

  • Stop when you feel like it, but be honest:

  • It’s OK to stop warming up when you’re not really warmed up as long as you aren’t kidding yourself and then assume you can go sing anything as loudly as you want.

  • It’s also OK to let go of warming up, accepting that you are where you are today, however, assess something that is going well, and do that a little more or reinforce that, because that is an important accomplishment.

  • Sometimes it is natural and best to continue warming up, gradually and graciously, for a long time, because it feels sensible to do so, and that is sometimes better than moving into repertoire or more aggressive vocal exercises. It’s not about how high and loud you can sing, it’s about how consistently you can make what you feel is your best tone. You can be proud of that, it is unique to you and with consistent attention (even in very brief amounts) you will appreciate some level of development and consistency. (Incidentally, as one becomes an older adult, that need increases.)

Community, and Remote Community

  • Warming up in a group bonds the group, in addition to building vocal skills. It’s much more than scales and arpeggios, it is a time during which the sense of the ensemble, that day, that moment, is formed, and the repetition of that time is an invaluable bonding sense. (Advanced groups that don’t do all of the voice building exercises will typically still have an initial process of engaging the ensemble vocally, that bonds the ensemble for the rehearsal.)

  • Remotely, there are concepts that can be of great value to us as individuals, and in the idea that we work together when physically distanced.

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