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.
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.