Singing Games for Musical Improv - Warm ups
Why warm up?
Warm ups are a crucial part of any performance. They help prepare the right muscles for action and prepare the brain for activity. Without a good warm up your performance can suffer, or worse, you risk injury. When giving any vocal performance it is very important to make sure the voice is well prepared, and in any improv performance it is equally important to make sure the brain is well prepared. These singing games will help you boost your performance and help look after your voice.
Using your voice when it is not in good health is likely to lead to more damage. Musical Improv can demand a wide range of vocal styles, pitch, dynamics and timbre so the voice needs to be in good condition. Hydration, diet, physical and emotional health will all help to support a healthy voice.
Being in a good mental state, both in yourself and with your team is also fundamental to giving a good performance, whether it is just in rehearsal or on the stage. Musical Improv will put you and your characters in a huge range of situations and you need to have high levels of trust in your group and ideally be in a good mental state yourself. Clearly this is not always achievable and so warm ups can really help us to 'get in the room' both emotionally and physically.
Singing Games for Vocal Health
There are a few singing games and singing exercises that are generally agreed to help keep a healthy voice. Here are the ones we use most often in our Musical Improv Classes
Five note ascending and descending scales are a great singing exercise to check in with your voice and to really listen to your sound. Each time you complete a scale, move up to the next note (whatever that means to you) and then you can gently explore your pitch range bit high and low. We use different repeated words for each scale to give the mouth and brain a gentle warm up too. For more details see our musical improv games - scales page. For more detail on warming up the voice here is a great article on vocal exercises for singers
Similar to scales, sirening really helps you listen and tune in to your range. Start low and with your mouth closed. Gently raise your pitch until comfortable near the top of your range and then go down again. As you warm up you can open your mouth and start to gently explore the top and bottom of your vocal range a little more.
Time to get your best horse impressions going. Vibrate the lips together and explore your range in a similar way to sirening. Great for warming up the lips, mouth and vocal chords.
Musical Improv Singing Games for warming up
Now the voice is warm we can really start to get connected to our own state and tune in to the people we will be improvising with. Improv warm ups serve the purpose of getting everyone on the same page, giving and accepting suggestions, taking the spotlight and limbering up the brain.
Just a wonderful way to connect to those around you. You can close your eyes and breathe together as a group. When you are ready you can start to hum or sing together. The focus is really on listening to the sounds you are making as a group. For a more detailed description, see our Musical Improv Games - Acapella Harmonies page
Sing Your Name
Really useful as an introductory Singing Game for a new group or the first Musical Improv Class. Each person says their own name however they would like it to be said and then the group scans that name to a scale. you can have just first names or go for the whole thing. Lovely way just to get people to say hi and introduce themselves before a warm name bath. For a more detailed description, see our Musical Improv Games - Sing Your Name page
Have to include this as one of my favourite singing games. Each pair in a group will sing a duet with each other. No real words allowed which gives room for loads of expressive singing, character and story. For a more detailed description, see our Musical Improv Games - Gibberish Duets page
Warm up your way
Every group, class and troupe are different and many long-standing groups will develop their own practise for warming up. In The Maydays we like to do counting 1-20, a mind-meld and a Musical 8 things. This starts to serve an important role as a ritual, to help us get connected and to transition to performance mode. In a class, warm ups serve as a way to transition from the outside world to a class. Singing Games provide the perfect way to relax, listen and warm up, not only for a Musical Improv Class, but for any group activity.
Tell us your favourite warm ups
You can see our ever-growing list of Singing Games on our Musical Improv Games page. We would love to hear your favourite Singing Games for warming up, whether it is for Musical Improv or anything else so please do comment or get in touch to let us know what you are doing to prepare for your big or small musical improv performances.
Heather Urquhart and Joe Samuel have over 15 years experience performing, teaching and writing about Musical Improv. Based in the UK they have facilitated workshops and graced stages around the world.