Group and Circle Singing Games
Why play singing games in a circle?
"Right, everybody in a circle around the piano" is heard at most of our Musical Improv Classes near the start. Rather than starting by explaining a concept or launching straight into the main focus of the class, getting people to gather around the piano (or guitar or anything really) is a great way to get people moving, seeing each other and for musical improv, making suggestions and contributing or performing in front of other people in a safe way. After a few warm ups (read about some of our favourite warm up singing games) we will often move straight into some singing exercises and games that relate to the main topic or theme of the class while people are still in a circle.
Singing games for groups
These singing exercises and musical improv games are perfect for getting everybody singing together, increasing confidence and practising techniques that can be used in performance or rehearsal straight away.
Sing your Day
One of our all time favourite circle games as it allows people to practise improvising Verses and Choruses, let's people check in through the medium of song and gets everyone singing together. One person sings a short verse about their day/week/whatever they like, the next sings the 'chorus' that sums up that verse and then everyone sings the chorus together. A great chance to practise free narrative verses using your own life as inspiration and then to practise coming up with a chorus simple enough that everyone can join in. Read about Sing your Day in more detail at our Musical Improv Games - Sing Your Day page
This circle singing game can be a real challenge for some so it should be used with caution! One person stands in the middle of the circle and starts to sing an existing song, they are then tagged out by anyone on the outside of the circle who starts to sing a different existing song that they were reminded of or just popped into their head. Ideally the person in the middle should not be left there for too long! Often this game will turn into a Christmas Medley or just a good old singalong. For extra points, try doing a completely improvised version with the same commitment as the existing songs version. To find out more about Hotspot visit our Musical Improv Games - Hotspot page.
This exercise is great for choirs or people who are trying improvised singing for the first time. Basically everyone starts by just singing or humming any note but all together. You can encourage people to close their eyes and really listen to the ensemble sound. When anyone's breath runs out they just breathe in their own time and then begin singing another note. The variations are endless with rhythmic sounds, consonants, real words and phrases or movement all adding extra spice to this exercise. You can listen to highlights of one of our hour long experiments in our podcast episode or read more about how acapella harmonies work at our Musical Improv Games - Acapella Harmonies page.
This singing game allows people to sing a song as a group by contributing one line at a time. It can be really useful for identifying different sections of a song, and for practising the art of accepting anyone's offer (yes and). A subject is given and someone starts by walking over to someone else while singing the first line of a song. That person then takes over and sings the next line while walking towards someone else and so on. You can predetermine a song structure or let the group find one organically. Choruses can be sung by one person or the whole group. There are many aspects of improvised songs that arise in this exercise such as line length, melody, style, anything that makes a song sound like a song really. Find out more about how to play song circle on our Musical Improv Games - Song Circle page.
This is a great exercise for children, or people who are singing in a second language as it involves no words, just the universal language of music! Everyone in the circle picks an instrument that they are going to be in this song and when they sing, they sing in the style of that instrument. Common picks are bass, percussion, trumpet, guitar, but you can encourage people to really go for something obscure like bagpipes if they want a challenge. Once the group is all singing together, they can take turns doing solos, or be conducted by someone in the group to be soft, loud, fast or slow. Find out more about how to play band at our Musical Improv Games - Band page.
Improvised Rounds - Extreme Challenge!
We are including this game as it encompasses the improv spirit of commitment and willingness to fail proudly. This game is not really possible to 'succeed' at, by which I mean it is not going to sound nice, coherent or make any sense. Basically one person starts to sing a 4-line improvised round. When they reach the start of the second line, the next person sings the first line that the first person made up. This continues round the circle so that each person has to listen to the next line while singing the previous line! It will make no sense, people will look confused, mishear lines and have no idea where they are in the song. This represents the perfect opportunity to coach participants to look confident, sing anything at all and fail with a big smile on their face. Read more about Improvised Rounds on our Musical Improv Games - Improvised Rounds page.
Please suggest some more.
We would love to hear what group and circle singing games you have come across. You can email us, comment on this blog or use the contact form below to reach out and connect to our lovely musical improv community. You can see a selection of our curated Musical Improv Games by visiting our Musical Improv Games page.
Singing Games for Musical Improv - Rhyming Games
Rhyming is a muscle
No matter how naturally talented, or terrible you may think you are at rhyming, then good news is that it is a skill that is improved with practise. Some people's brains just seem to be able to pop out rhymes like popcorn machines, others will freeze at the very thought of having to come up with a rhyme. There are many ways to practise rhyming and here are some of the methods we use during Musical Improv Classes.
Rhyming Games for Groups
Playing rhyming games as part of a group is a great way to put yourself on the spot and find out what you can do. Part of improving your rhyming ability is to relax and allow your brain to make connections, but there are also times when for whatever reason, you just can't think of a rhyme. That is where Improv skills kick in. Can you still commit to delivering something? Do you shrink away in horror at your own fallibility? Or can you style it out and keep the flow of the game going? Here are some of our favourite rhyming games for Improv (or anything else).
Rhyme ball uses an imaginary ball that is 'thrown' around a circle. When you throw the ball you also say a word, when you catch it you rhyme. Throw-associate, catch-rhyme. The mechanic is deceptively simple but this exercise has many hidden powers to improv your rhyming and improv. Firstly you can simply work that rhyming muscle and try to hit as many clean and accurate rhymes as you can. The next layer though is keeping the ball moving and keeping your thinking time short. That means that you will not always have a good word ready. You might even be given a word that does not exist or is just too complex for a good rhyme. What then? That is when your improv skills kick in and you accept the offer, yes and it with something and give a gift to the next person. When coaching rhyme ball we nearly always stop after a minute or two and encourage the players to act more like children actually playing with a ball. A bad throw or catch is not relevant, but keeping the game going with joy is. Try rhyme ball with gibberish words or deliberately difficult ones to achieve true master rhyming status. Read more about how the game works at our Musical Improv Games - rhyme ball page.
Hush Little Baby
Often played right after rhyme ball as it is the perfect chance to put the skills of rhyming and associating into action. Hush little Baby involves improvising the words to the original song. One player will give a gift and the next will find something wrong with it and then rhyme with themselves when giving the next gift. "If that insert gift falls apart, I'm gonna buy you a nice jam tart." etc.
The beauty of this game is that it introduces the mechanics of a musical improv song in a fairly simple structure. It also highlights the need to keep the song going so it does not fall behind the accompaniment. You can download the accompaniment backing track for Hush Little Baby here. It also tends to lead to some hilarious and inappropriate offerings and laughter is such a great way to relax people and get them more free to be creative and inventive. Read more about how the game works at our Musical Improv Games - Hush Little Baby page.
Love is Like
Another of our standard and favourite rhyming games in a group, Love is Like involves one person singing two lines about their love..."Our love is like the sea, it changes every day" and the other person rhyming with both lines, "Our love is like a flea, it sometimes flies away." Again this is a nice gentle way to start to put rhymes into a song format without too much pressure. Just like rhyme ball, we will often do a round of Love is Like and then coach people in the next round to really loosen up in their body and mind and really commit to the song and the emotion. If the rhyme comes in the moment then great, if not then you still have to be in the moment and deliver something to your song partner. In our opinion, the way to succeed this game is to look and sound like you know exactly what you are doing, even if the words do not come out quite right. Read more about how to play at our Musical Improv Games - Love is like page
Solo or duet rhyming games
If you really want to get those reps in there is no better way than just working that rhyming muscle hard on your own or with another person. Here are some of our most highly recommended rhyming exercises and games to play on your own or with a friend.
I'm not sure if this goes under other names but we have always called it simply questions. The format is simple enough, one person asks a question, the other responds (or you respond to your own question) and then asks you a question back which you respond to. The rhyming comes in that your question should rhyme with your response. So if you replied 'Yes I like truffles they are nice', your question could be 'Have you ever had head lice?'
A simple formula but can lead to some hilarious and revealing moments as you find out about whether you prefer bears or wolves and whether you have ever tickled a pig. Also gives loads of opportunities to come up with quick rhymes. Find out how to play in more detail on our Musical Improv Games - Questions page, and listen to our podcast where we play this and other rapping games on our rapping podcast
This is how we do it
A lovely technique for setting yourself up for a rhyme. Watch the expert Abandoman nail it here. There are numerous ways to get your payoff words - the word you want to land at the end of your second line. Objects held up, just anything that you see or words fed to you by someone else. Any way you get your word, your job is to set up a line so that you can rhyme with the given word on the next line. The phrase 'This is how we do it' is simply a way to get into the rhythm of the lines and to give yourself a bit of thinking time. As you become more accomplished you will be able to drop this line and improvise the whole thing.
Say the word was 'River' you could say:
'This is how we do it, it's the water giver,
Get yourself wet in the mighty River'
Read more about how to play this rhyming game at our Musical Improv Games - This is how we do it page.
Improvise an existing song
Loads of our rhyming games come from taking an existing song and improvising new lyrics. We have done this with Favourite things, Superclifragilisticexpialidocious, Oh what a beautiful morning, Da Doo Ron Ron and countless more. You can just pick any song you like that has a rhyme scheme and try to improvise your own version either on your own or a line at a time with a group for an extra challenge.
Let us know
If you have any favourite rhyming games you use to help build that muscle than we would love to hear about it. You can email us, comment on this blog or use the contact form below to reach out and connect to our lovely musical improv community. You can see a selection of our curated Musical Improv Games by visiting our Musical Improv Games page.
Singing Games for Musical Improv - Our Favourites
The best of the best
Over the 15 years we have been teaching and performing, we have devised, invented and adapted thousands of Musical Improv Games. So many have fallen by the wayside, but every now and then we get a keeper. Here are the Musical Improv Games, exercises and song formats that have refused to go away.
Laugh, sing and laugh again
Singing and laughing is surely one of the most wholesome, life affirming and bonding activities we can take part in. Some exercises and games just lend themselves to being funny. Just a moment of humanity, vulnerability or pure comedy is enough to get a group buzzing and pulling together.
Musical 8 things
The most reliable and versatile exercise we have ever encountered. Musical 8 things started as a simple adaptation of a straight improv exercise. Then came the tune and backing that remained the same for many years - you can listen to and download our musical 8 things backing track. Then we started to leave the tune and style open each time. Then some movement and choreography, and finally stretching the game into an entire genre - staging it like a musical, doing 4, 16, 32, 64 things and using it as our standard pre-show warm up. It is funny, warms up brain and voice and gets a group working together. Thank you musical 8 things, where would we be without you. Read how the game works at our Musical Improv Games - Musical 8 things page
Hush Little Baby
A simple and beautiful adaptation from a real song. This game allows no time for thought, leading people straight into the pure improvisation zone. The place where you just have to open your mouth....and sing. Here is where the things you never wanted to sing about come tumbling out, along with the nonsense, gibberish, profanity and debauchery. Hush little baby never fails to get a group laughing and singing together. Find out how to play at our Musical Improv Games - Hush Little Baby page.
A staple game in our beginners classes and also a great way to remind experienced players how to connect to your scene partner and get to the emotional heart. Gibberish duets allow a group to let go of words and be in the moment. Fantastic in groups of mixed languages and experience, always giving a huge range of results from emotional, dramatic, comedic and downright silly. Find out how to play at our Musical Improv Games - Gibberish Duets page.
Learn and bond
These Musical Improv Games are the ones that make people leave wanting more. That transcend a class and take people on a real journey. Warning - can lead to a serious Musical Improv addiction...
Flock of Birds
In Heather's own words, "This game contains the WHOLE of Improv". How can a simple choreography exercise that takes 30 seconds to explain give so much? Well, in order to boss the game completely, the group will have to be present with raised awareness, sensitive to leading and following, truly improvising rather than inventing, and willing to break down into randomness and build it up again. We have done narrated versions as a performance piece, minimalist and musical theatre versions, silly, sensitive and outrageous versions. Gets the group on their feet and moving, hearts pumping and raises awareness of the whole group. Find out how we play at our Musical Improv Games - Flock of Birds page
Split Scene Tagline song
I can honestly say that this format has delivered many of the most profoundly moving improvised songs I have ever heard. It takes a while to get the hang of the structure but the rewards are tremendous. Lending itself to emotional connection and content, the song allows for complex and deep narratives, beautiful singing and harmony. Find out how to perform it at our Musical Improv Games - Split Scene Tagline Duet page.
Oh Pointing song, where would we be without you. The climax of many a workshop, the pointing song galvanises a group and provides a rich soil for literally any emotion, sentiment or idea to propagate. The most heart-warming, uplifting moments can arise from a pointing song as well as biting satire and pure comedy. Find out how to organise one at our Musical Improv Games - Pointing Song page.
Tell us about your favourite Musical Improv Games
We love to share our discoveries and nothing thrills me more than seeing another group trying out a new game or format and making it their own. If you have a favourite game that has become a trusted friend on stage or in a workshop we would love to hear about it. You can let us know by emailing us or commenting on this post below. Happy Musical Improv-ing and don't be a stranger.
You can see our curated list of Singing games and Musical Improv games on our Musical Improv Games page.
Scared of Singing?
You are not alone. Most people are scared of singing in public and for many, even the prospect of bashing out 'Happy Birthday' with anyone but the dog present is enough to break out in a cold sweat. Along with the fear of public speaking, fear of public singing can be more panic inducing than the fear of death itself! We have heard so many stories of people who were told as children that they couldn't or shouldn't sing. Sometimes a relative, or even a music teacher can destroy your confidence for singing or speaking in public with one damaging comment.
The benefits of getting over your fear of singing in public
Any time we achieve something we thought difficult or even impossible we get a huge boost to our self esteem. The fear of singing in public is largely irrational as we are not going to be socially excluded or ostracised for doing it. Stepping out of our comfort zone and owning it is going to improve our mental and physical well being and strengthen our connection to others.
Safety in Numbers
While it may seem counter-intuitive to tackle your fear of singing in public with other people, we have found that this provides the most supportive atmosphere to start conquering those demons. Our fear is based in deep instinctive fears of rejection, abandonment and social exclusion so what better way to start positively reinforcing your voice than to have the support of others who feel the same. In a large sporting event or music gig you might get thousands of people all singing together and feel that your voice will just get lost in the crowd. Is that actually facing your fear though?
One on one singing lessons can be extremely beneficial to unlock your voice and to gain confidence in your own sound. A supportive singing teacher, and on that specialises in nervous singers or beginners will be perfect to start you on the road to loving your own voice.
Join a choir
There is a growing number of community and amateur choirs that are open to all abilities and this is a great way of starting your singing journey. Yes there will be people there who love the sound of their own voice but you will find very supportive communities and other people just like you who are there to build their confidence.
Take a Musical Improv Class
Well we would say that as enabling people to conquer their fear of singing is one of our prime objectives when delivering a Musical Improv class. The hardest part is taking the leap of faith to book yourself on a class in the first place. Once you are in the room, physically or virtually, you will soon be laughing, creating, supporting others and singing. We have spent the last 15 years carefully designing classes to gently encourage people to expand their comfort zone and to actively enjoy singing in front of other people. There is no judgement of the quality of anybody's voice, musicality or creativity. Musical Improv Classes are about bringing yourself, being yourself and being part of a trusting, supportive group.
We are running a series of online sessions designed specifically for people who are scared of singing or who hate Musical Improv! Come join us and see what you can achieve and support others on the same journey towards greater self-confidence. Expect laughter, a safe space, like-minded people and, well okay...there will be some singing. Find out more or sign up to our Musical Improv for those who hate Musical Improv Class.