Instrument Talk Warm Ups with a Purpose
Warm Ups with a Purpose
By Mary Land, Educational Clinician
I always use a warmup with every ensemble from beginners to college students. I often begin with concert F; in the key of Bb that is my so. I usually start with my first chair clarinet, or any student who plays in tune and with a beautiful tone. The clarinetist plays the concert F and everybody sings this pitch. You can easily trick your students into singing by having them hum the pitch first. Next have them drop their jaw to turn their hum into an “ah.” They are now singing! Now, have the brass buzz while all others sing. Next the woodwinds play it as a whole note, and the brass buzz as a whole note. This process is in a call and response style. Next, drop down to concert Bb, and ask the woodwinds to play and the brass to buzz. This goes back and forth and is followed by an exercise with the brass playing instead of buzzing. Another warm-up option is to play a pitch, sustain it, and then point at one section to continue sustaining the note while all others drop out. They listen to the note, and then when the director brings the hands up, it indicates that it is time for everybody else to play. Continue the warmup and isolate different sections in the band. I encourage the students to “hide in” or “get inside” the tones of those around them and to ALWAYS listen more to others than to themselves.
A warmup should centre on what is planned for that day. If the piece is in Eb major, then use an Eb concert scale in the warmup. If there will be work on a difficult articulated pattern, include those rhythms in a call-and-response. For example, the director might play a pattern on an instrument and have the band play it back. If there is a rhythm that is particularly difficult, give the students a rhythm card, or PowerPoint slide, and have them all play it. Mix up the warmups to keep students on the edge of their seats. Band is fun, teaching is fun, and making great music is fun. Avoid becoming trapped in the same warm up day after day. I visit a lot of band rooms to evaluate student teachers and to recruit future students. I observe teachers walking into their rehearsals and mindlessly have students play a warmup Bb scale. There is no attempt to assess intonation or tone quality. Nothing is addressed. There must be a reason for the warmup that you use on a particular day. It is fun to throw things out at students before they realise that it is part of the music for that day’s rehearsal. Students become excited when the light goes on, and they understand the reason for that day’s warmup. In general, talk less and play more. Have a plan for each lesson and make sure that each element of the rehearsal has a purpose.
Find warm ups that work for you and your ensemble. There are many warm up method books that are loaded with great teaching material. Choose your warm ups wisely and connect them to your lesson/repertoire for the rehearsal.
Follow these teaching tips as you create your daily warm ups:
• Start on time. When the bell rings, some teachers are still in the office. Stand at the door when students enter the room and greet them. Start the class on time. If there is a tardy bell, use that as the time to start class.
• Stay focused on specific tasks. When I step on the podium, I am here to work. Stay on task and do not ask about their weekend. Have a plan and be ready to go.
• Speak assertively. This doesn’t mean to scare students but be very clear with directions.
• No false starts. Don’t bring your hands up to conduct and then start talking again. When you bring your hands up, play. At a performance, do not count the band off. Position, breathe, and go.
• Start teaching. Many teachers begin classes with announcements. This leads to questions and wasted time. Save announcements until a brief break in the middle of rehearsal or project announcements on the technology screen
• Stay organised. Keep all equipment for teaching at the podium. Create a workstation made from containers with little drawers that were designed to hold nails and tools. Attach several to the wall behind your podium to keep reeds and mouthpieces. Student names should be on each drawer for mouthpieces for those playing school owned instruments that are shared throughout the day.
• Keep the room uncluttered. Do not let students bring all their worldly possessions into the band room. Keep the rehearsal area clear of instrument cases and backpacks. These items should be placed in the instrument locker area or in a designated area away from the rehearsal space.
Source: Conn-Selmer Division of Education (opens new window)