Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Warm-Up: Getting it "right"…Part II


Yes, we're all trying to "get it right."  What should we aim for in terms of process?  We'll talk about length and other specifics later on, but there are times when we must think #1, #2, #3, etc.  In the Warm-Up, think in terms of short examples, so you can give feedback and change the sound quickly.  Most of my work with rehearsal preparation through Earlene Rentz Online Publications deals with learning specific repertoire…using Rehearsal Preparation Sheets.  Below are some prioritized components for initial use in the Warm-Up.  These might be of some value when considering your Warm-Up structure and content for the coming year.

1)  Pure, Unified Vowels:  
It makes sense to me that the very first Warm-Up component should be "vowels only."  Find a short Warm-Up pattern of 2-4 measures (or write one) that consists of vowels held long enough so that students can hear the unification (oo, ee, eh, oh, ah).  Then, gradually decrease the duration (whole note...to half note...to quarter, etc.). We first get the voice going, but when we are aware the voice is becoming "awakened," then it is great to give feedback that encourages the engagement of the ears and mind as well.  I continue to be amazed that the sound totally changes, when I make a comment that focuses on students listening to themselves and others around them, unifying the sound.  It then seems that unification begins to happen in an amazing fashion.  Start with the closed "oo," then move to "ee"…then to "eh"…then "oh"…then "ah"…and Pandora's Box is open wide for all to hear.  Plan to spend a little time in unifying the "ah" vowel.

2)  Vowels with a Beginning Consonant:
Take #1 a step further, and put a consonant in front of the vowels:  use the same vowel throughout, so students will be able to concentrate on just a couple of things…vowel unification/getting to the vowel immediately from the beginning consonant.  Start simply…consonant with "oo"…consonant with "ee"…you get it.  Popular beginning consonants are "d" and "l"…but remember, the object is to get the consonant "out of the way"…get to the vowel.  Once the consistent vowel has been mastered, have the students change vowels with each note…challenging, but the "real world" of choral diction.

3)  Vowels with a Beginning and Ending Consonant:
Use the same concept of #2 above, but decide on an ending consonant.  By this point, we have the representation of "a word" that requires a choral diction challenge (beginning consonant, vowel, ending consonant).  Then…go back to #1, sing the example that contained all five vowels, and put the same beginning and ending consonant with each vowel sound.  As you can tell, this is a systematic warm-up that becomes more difficult and challenging, one step at a time.

4)  Various words on each note:
A supplementary text that might be helpful in contributing notation to your creative Warm-Up is From Concepts to Concerts, published by Carl Fischer.  The purchaser has permission to make multiple copies of each page.  You can use this supplementary text for all your classes, as they are arranged in order from easy to complex.  Check it out at Amazon!

5)  Preparing for the Day's Repertoire:
This aspect of the Warm-Up has been the primary focus of my choral-music education-writing career.  I try to prepare choral directors to teach my work quickly in rehearsal, so I create exercises that get the process going.  A choral director should keep in mind all that will be required of students in rehearsal that day.  Then…prepare students to be successful in those tasks…whatever they might be.  Rehearsal Preparation Sheets were not my idea…my good friend Gayle Box used them in her classes in Texas, and I saw them in action when I observed student teachers who were working with her.  I give her full credit for teaching me about these wonderful resources.  As you can see, they are examples of sequential steps that are necessary in teaching…they gradually get students to the point of singing right notes and rhythms, and have just a few of the words on the correct notes (Examples 7 and 8).

And so…we have 15-20 minutes (or less) for Warm-Up, but…those 15-20 minutes can be some of the most well-spent minutes in all "choral-dom," if we plan with the same diligence of mind as we require of our students.  Sounds like "a plan," huh?!

These are just some of my thoughts…yours?

Still trying to "get it right"…….

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