Vocal Technique and Warm-Up For Dudes
In a previous post, I mentioned that I wanted to make some changes to Men's Choir this year. Instead of meeting once a week, we are now meeting twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday before school). I also invited 6th grade guys to join this year, instead of only 7th and 8th.
We're also starting a little earlier. Instead of starting at 7:30 a.m., I now have them come down at 7:15/ 7:20 a.m., which gives us more time for a full rehearsal. With these changes, I'm getting about 60 minutes a week to meet with just the guys. And I have to say, they've gotten off to a great start!
Dude Choir started two weeks ago, and has officially met 4 times. During this time, we've been working on getting to know one another, building basic vocal technique, and learning notes and rhythms on TB pieces for a clinic we are going to attend at the end of October.
Building proper vocal technique is the most crucial element to begin with. I generally stick to a threefold warm-up: warm up the body, warm-up the voice, and warm-up the ensemble. But, with Dude Choir, I format our time in a slightly different way. The video below shows our warm-up and vocal technique sequence from this past Thursday:
Below, you'll find a breakdown and description of this sequence.
I always begin with some type of body movement activity. Chances are, students have been sitting all day before they entire your room. In this case, they were probably in bed asleep. Getting them up and moving is a nice way to get focused and energized for rehearsal. In this video, I start with shakedown. Here's what you do:
Start with a number of your choice (I start with 8)
Shake each arm and leg that many times in the following sequence: right arm, left arm, right leg, left leg.
repeat the sequence while subtracting a number each time until you get to 1. It's fun because it just keeps getting faster!
Sirens and Slides
With my guys, I always try to engage their speaking voice before I engage their singing voice. It's more comfortable for them because they can just make silly sounds without having singing attached to it. If they can access a pitch in a siren, then they can sing it, too!
Sliding Into Pitch
I transitioned into singing by having them slide and end up on one pitch. They did this the exact same time I did rather than echoing me so they could work on hearing and matching the pitch. With changing voices, you can do this when you're working on repertoire to help them find a note, too!
Blowing Out The Birthday Candle
I ask the kids to hold up their birthday candle, a.k.a- their index finger. I tell them I'm going to count to 4, and on 4, they have to breathe in, and the following 1 they have to blow their candle out. It's a fun way to get breath going at the beginning of rehearsal
Singing On U With Different Consonants
This exercise uses a very similar breathing pattern to blowing out the birthday candle. It's a nice transition into engaging the air into pitch. To mix it up, I call out different consonants.
Sliding, Part II
We return to slides again to reinforce the connection between their speaking and singing voice. It's comforting to return to if they begin struggling to match whatever pitch you're on.
Working To Drop The Jaw
I have a harder time getting my guys to open their mouths than I do with the girls. So, I start making silly noises just to get them to work on it. Word for the wise: When in doubt, do something silly...
Using Solfege to Hear Perfect and Octave Unisons
I use follow the hand, a solfege exercise, to help the guys hear the difference between perfect and octave unisons. As a female director, it's critical that my boys can hear this difference. Why? Because I physically can't mimic their sound quality! I want them to know how to match my pitch, and be able to match me down the octave. Since I can't copy them myself, I call out certain people for them to listen to who do a killer job with this already. Here is how I sing with each voice part:
Tenor 1's/Unchanged- I sing this part on pitch, in the correct octave.
Tenor 2's/ Cambiata- Depending on what it is, I will sing these parts either up the octave, or ask them to match me. I try to be very specific about what I want them to sing, so they know what to do.
Bartiones/Basses- I always sing up the octave.