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6-8: Wild and Wacky Warmups

by Georgia Stephens, Learn NC

The lesson describes choral music warmups for improving singing posture, breath control, vowel placement, and rhythmic reading skills. Basic sightreading skills are reviewed and reinforced to enhance independent musicianship.

A lesson plan for Grades 6–8 Music Education

Students will:

  • demonstrate proper posture for singing as previously learned.
  • continue to build upon classical vocal skills, such as proper Latin vowel placement, breath support techniques, ear training, aural recall skills, focus, and relaxation techniques.

Time required for lesson: 20.00 minutes


Piano Consonant chart Technology resources

Computer with Internet access (optional)


Students should know:

  • the proper sitting and standing posture for singing.
  • the five Latin vowel sounds.
  • basic note values
  • vocal range or part.


1. Students will demonstrate relaxation exercises from a standing position, such as neck rolls, shoulder rolls, stretching hands over head and bringing them down slowly into singer’s position. Students will remain completely quiet during relaxation exercises.

2. Have students flop over from the waist like a ragdoll, making sure their arms are swinging and completely relaxed. They should imagine that their spine is a ladder, and they must place one rung on top of the other as they bring their bodies up. This should be done Slowly, setting the head “on top of the ladder.”

3. The teacher will lead students in a series of focusing exercises. The teacher will beat a pattern of four while students inhale four counts, hold four counts while expanding the rib cage, and exhaling four counts. Extend this to eight and then sixteen counts until students are comfortable “filling up the tank.”

4. Students will take in a large breath over a span of eight counts and exhale slowly, only allowing a small amount of air to escape and continue to exhale a steady and controlled stream of air until they are depleted.

5. Students begin to vocalize by exercising their aural recall skills. Students close their eyes and listen to the teacher demonstrate short improvised rhythmic patterns using consonants such as t t kk t or sh sh t p k. Students repeat the pattern back to the teacher in the identical rhythmic pattern and consonants in exact order given. Good combinations are simple patterns of quarter, quarter, eighth, quarter or eighth, quarter, eighth, quarter. Any rhythm and consonant mix is appropriate depending on the skill and experience of the group.

6. To increase the feeling of “space” inside the mouth, have singers place their hands over upper abdomen, take in a good breath and make a noise like a “siren” using a vowel of individual choice. They should start from the deepest part of their range and bring the sound up and over the top of their range. This should be done several times and always with one breath. Students are to focus on the sound originating from below the diaphragm and not in the upper body or throat.

7. Beginning with an A major chord below middle C, students will sing ZEE-YAH on pitches 1 – 5 4 3 2 1 (1= ZEE and descending on the YAH). Students should focus on keeping the tongue relaxed and forward on the ZEE as well as demonstrating a dropped jaw on the AH vowel. To add emphasis on space and projection, have students “throw the sound” with their right hand on the dominant pitch. Progressions should be made in half steps on the piano.

8. On a descending 5-4-3-2-1 scale have students Zee-Zeh-Zah-Zoh-Zoo in half-step progressions down. Change the consonant frequently to incorporate any particular combination you might be working on in your repertoire. Have a student hold up laminated consonants to signal singers when to change. The main focus should always be to sing with the samme vowel purity regardless of the change in consonant.


Students should be able to transfer basic warmup skills directly into the repertoire planned for rehearsal. As they sing the music the conductor has selected, the teacher will listen for the same vowel quality, breath support and focusing skills in rehearsal. Positive feedback and correction will be needed to transfer warmup skills into the regular rehearsal. Allow students to critique one another, with an emphasis on peer-praise and encouragement.

Related websites

MENC: The National Association for Music Education


Always strive to incorporate parts of your repertoire into the warmup, such as key words, difficult pronunciations, or tricky rhythm patterns.

Warmups should relax the singers, prepare them vocally for the ensuing demands of the rehearsal, and unify the choir as a team!

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