Between the shoulder roll/jaw massage/humming part of the warm up and the intense training that needs to carry over into the repertoire lies a nebulous no man’s land of mushy and sometimes reluctant brain activity.
The flow chart looks something like this:
Feel good warm fuzzy relaxing stuff……..going through the motions vocal exercises…….intense rehearsing of repertoire that demands high levels of vocal, mental and emotional focus.
Just as there are ways to speed up the warming up of the voice (Bubbling, Zzzzzing, Humming Glissandi) I’ve found a new way to kick start the mind and use a little less of precious rehearsal time waiting for mental intensity to ramp up.
Yes, using the hand movements with the formed vowels forces brains to actually think about the vowels does speed up the mental awakening.
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But this Super Focus exercise seems to turbo charge it.
1. Start with everyone taking in four small ‘sips’ of air to a beat (about metronome marking 104) through the nose, then really kick out the breath, again through the nose in four short bursts. They should feel a lot of diaphragm action on the kicking out of the breath.
In a steady rhythm – breathe in for four, out for four. (Do this in/out breathing cycle just 3 times)
2. Then pick a spot on the wall opposite the singers and ask them to focus on that spot – ferociously. Eyes wide open, as if a great rage had overtaken them – or as if staring down a large predatory lion.
Have them direct this intensity, like a laser beam, to that spot as they once again do the rhythmic breathing through the nose. 4 counts in, then 4 counts out. (Do the in/out cycle 3 times)
3. Ask the singers to march in place, arms swinging naturally (again, to about metronome marking 104, or whatever is a comfortable marching tempo for the chorus). Now add the Super Focus breathing pattern (really kicking out the air on the exhale) and the ferocious eyes. Again do the in/out breathing cycle 3 times.
A side benefit of this mental wake up exercise is that afterwards, the sound of the next phrase or will be richer, fuller and more blended.
Once the chorus knows the exercise you don’t need to do steps 1 and 2 – just step 3, so it becomes a very fast way to perk up mushy brains.