Exploring Vocal Warm-ups
Teacher: Michelle Janzen
The main focus of the lesson today was for the students to gather in small groups and to come up with some warm-up activities that could prepare them for a piece of German leader. So the idea was to look at all the different technical difficulties in learning a piece of music and combine them in different portions into a warm-up activity that everybody could do. So what we did beforehand was we discussed all the different things that warm-ups could prepare a student for. For example range difficulties, diction problems, other kinds of technical aspects of the piece. After we finish them they’ll look back and reflect on whether they were successful, and possibly having a better understanding of when they do do other kinds of music how they can create their own warm-up activities.
Student: If you don’t warm up your voice you could strain your voice very easily. There’s been many times where I did not warm up properly and I felt it in the end, like it was not a good feeling. So you want to kind of take aspects of every single possible thing in a warm-up before you go and perform.
What you’re going to do is you’re going to teach the class your warm-up and we’re going to run through that warm-up and see if it’s effective.
Student: So you start at zero, you move back, your finger back, and as your finger goes back you’re going to push your sound back into your throat. So it’s going to go ….then as you go front you’re going to try and put your sound right in your mask and try to make a really nasally sound.
Student: Your voice has many different sounds. It could either be a dark tone or a lighter tone, or it could just be a little bit of a mix in between.
Student: Preparing your voice through vocal warm-up is an ideal and vital technique to do prior to a performance. I’d say it will warm up your range and it will prepare your voice and intonation through your mouth.
My goal is to get them to be singers beyond high school and if they don’t understand how to take care of their voice now the challenges later on, when they’re not necessarily be guided, that they’re going to know how to understand voice care and a big part of that is the vocal warm-up.
Student: This is for the diction and for the pronunciation of the German text while we’re working up the scale, in minor scale. So it’s [speaks in German], and you really have to emphasize on the [German term].
They can take any of these exercises and change the vowel colors to suit any language that they’re moving to. They can change the diction. They can look at a piece of music, change the diction, but use the same pitches. But they can take all of those and apply them to other languages by changing the vowel, changing the consonant, changing the phraseology. So if they took a phrase out of the German text they can take a phrase out of the Italian and apply it right to that exercise.
Teacher: So we also dealt with range with that activity, as well, right. So we managed to get up to a high G, which was great.
Student: Our first warm-up we did with my group was the tomato-potato. We went ascending chromatically and then back down descending, and it helped with the diction and with the pronunciation of the words in going chromatically up the scale. Our words are tomato-potato and what you want to be sure of is that you’re pronouncing your consonants extremely well and when you’re saying the “o” in tomato and potato you’re keeping your lips forward and circular.
Student: You learn from other people and what they were able to come up with and also I’m not particularly really strong in the chromatic scale so the fact that we focused one of the warm-ups on the chromatic scale really helped me in and I really enjoyed that particular warm-up.
Student: This class is really helpful for creative risks because we’re all comfortable with each other and we’ve known each other for quite a while so we’re all friends and stuff and we’re not embarrassed to do whatever because we know that no one is going to judge us. We’re all going to do it together and if we mess up no one is going to care, they’re just going to help us and get back up, and yeah, you can do whatever you want and no one will judge you.
Teacher: Good, very good.
Student: [speaks in German], and in this sentence we have an [German term] which is [German term]. We were going to sing this as there are multiple beats, we have to hold certain words.
One of the things that we’re looking at are their technical skills. Do they have the technical skills necessary to take that and move onto a choral setting, a solo setting. So some of these warm-ups are to create better technique and advance their musical skills. So when they look back at some of the exercises they’ve done in the past, other than the ones they created, they can decide which ones work the best for them through the warm-up, what they have the most success at, and then use those to actually prepare to perform their pieces in the future.
Student: So this exercise is perfect because we’re working on the [German term] vowel as well as range issues in one.
Student: So we’re just going up the scale on the [German term] and coming down on “o”.
Student: So for this one we are not going to be using the piano, we’re just going to work on diction because it is one of the most important parts of singing a German song. If your diaphragm is well your pulsing while you’re singing each consonant. Now try it with your hand on your stomach. Do you feel your stomach pulsing? We’re going to try a little faster and we’re going to keep up the speed.
We’re also going to have a group come up and demonstrate some 7th jumps because often times in German leader there are some very difficult jumps and when you look through a piece of music you need to find those kinds of things to do some vocal warm-ups to prepare you for it.
Student: It just helps expand your range and it helps with your flexibility in the upper range and jumping from the upper to the lower, to the lower upper range.
My goal to assess the students, I look at a few things. I look first of all how they were working in a group. Did everybody participate the same and they actually do some self-reflection on that as well. If they were working on range did they actually do an exercise that covers range, or what it a smaller inter-vowelic relationship exercise. I also evaluate the ability to teach the exercise. Did they come across properly, did they rehearse it enough? And then were they successful as a group performing that actual activity.
Student: I was just wondering for the one that we just did the warm-up, where is our placement, like how are we singing it? Is it back in the throat or is it more forward?
Student: It’s going to be an “s” sound so it’s going to be closer to the front of your face, so more in your mask, it’s not a deep back sound like how we’re doing in the finger exercise.
Teacher: OK, so we have our last warm-up. It’s going to be a fun warm-up, something that all of you can relate to as teenagers apparently, all about vampires. So Evan’s group is going to come up and demonstrate this activity in the minor scale, the minor mode.
Student: The vampires came out to play and drank my blood away.
Student: We’re ascending in a natural minor scale and then descending in a harmonic minor scale.
Student: We learn German songs, Italian songs, all different languages.
Teacher: Very well done folks. You really addressed some of the issues that we would find in German leader, a German song, and you looked at some of the things that could cause some difficulties. So these are really good warm-ups that you created and you can do that with every kind of music that you come across. It doesn’t matter which language it’s in, it doesn’t matter what type of music it is, and you’ll be able to use these things when you go on past high school because I know some of you are going into the music field.
Student: The teacher should have a good relationship with the students and there should be that good communication.
Student: I’ve been inspired because we’ve had such a positive teacher.
Student: Support your students, most definitely. If I didn’t have the support from my teacher I would not be where I am today, I don’t even know if I would be able to handle the program. I plan on taking music post-secondary. So this program really influenced me a lot in my decision.