Warming up in the car: legitimate method?
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    I've recently had a lot of cantors who inform me that they warm up in the car on the way to Mass. For some of them this is less than a five minute drive. Not surprisingly, some of these singers have issues hitting tones that I know are well within their range sometimes and they also do not produce a good open vowel sound. My thought is that there is no way to properly warm up in the car because 1. you're sitting down, and 2. the acoustic environment of the car is inferior to even a small, carpeted church. What are your thoughts? Do you have cantors/choir members who do the same? What is your response to this?
  • I would say that it's better than nothing at all, but hardly ideal. The issues you bring up are good points of attention. Furthermore, it is very helpful to have another musician helping with any issues that come up during the warm up. If all they're doing is singing along to a song on the radio, that is not going to put them in voice to sing for Mass.

    For choir members, this is even worse. A choral warm-up is more than about the individual voice; it's about listening to the whole choir and getting in gear to sing together. A choral warm-up sets the tone (pardon the pun) for the whole rehearsal. Bad warmup = bad rehearsal, and vice versa, usually.
  • Your concerns and Andrew's observations are quite pertinent. It seems ungracious to say it, but these cantors have an entire week to prepare their part in the mass, so it would seem that being prepared for this is, literally, the last thing on their agenda. Perhaps having a regular weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc. meeting with them in which you teach and rehearse basic vocal and rhetorical techniques, delivery of text, and how to prepare at home, etc., (complete with coffee and cookies) would be helpful. I should think that those who take their ministry seriously and truly appreciate the sacredness of their role in the mass would welcome this.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Yes, I've seriously considered having mandatory cantor rehearsals every week to make sure people are prepared. I am also trying to be sensitive to the fact that not every cantor has a piano at home (or other pitch providing device) nor the requisite skills to use one if they had, so providing a method by which those individuals can reliably practice seems prudent.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,947
    Warm-ups in the car shortly before having to sing is not the same issue as preparation and rehearsal(s) during the week.
    Thanked by 1Liam
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Correct, so I've really got two issues here.
  • It occurs to me that I may have mis-judged and been unfair: perhaps these cantors Are preparing at home through the week, but use the time on the way to mass to 'warm up'. This is better than nothing, but would be better done before leaving the house. Trying to do vocalises in the comfort of a car seat while driving doesn't seem optimal and cannot produce good results. At any rate, my above suggestions for regular cantors' meetings may remain valid.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,536
    Singers should of course be warned against trying to sing over the sound of an engine but if they've learned not to push, 5' vocalizing can certainly count towards a warmup. If they're amateurs, either a teacher should have the responsibility of teaching them how to warm up, or the director/organist must supervise them. I know only a few all-professional choirs in San Francisco where singers are expected to arrive already warmed up.
  • While I do not advocate the "warming up in the car" method, I would be grateful if my singers warmed up at all. At this point they do not know the importance of a vocal warmup, despite many analogies to athletes. Our rehearsals are always much better than our masses, due, in part, I think, because of lack of warmup on the part of singers. I cannot warm them up prior to mass because our masses follow back to back with the rosary inbetween. Yesterday I introduced a new choir to the parish. They were wonderful on Wednesday's rehearsal. They were all blended and the sopranos easily hit their upper ranges. Yesterday, it was very poor at mass, despite my direction that they needed to make sure their voices were warm and ready to sing.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,677
    I have the same problem with those too-close-together masses. The warmup consists of singing the opening hymn, the Kyrie and the Gloria. By the time of the psalm, they are OK. If they would warmup in the car, it would be an improvement.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Musicteacher, could you secure another space in which to warm up during the rosary? The parish school, social hall, chapel, basement of the church?
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    Paix,
    Same problem here too. The parish school is closed. The hall is busy with coffee and chatter. There is no basement. It is difficult to kick praying people out of the chapel. Most importantly, there is no parking! I would love to have everyone in on time, but the parking causes great distress. I too would be grateful for an "in-the-car" warm-up!
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,608
    I am at a loss to see how a choir could sing - especially in colder climes in the coldest/driest 4 months of the year - a morning Mass and sound passable from the start without warming up *as a choir* before Mass. The mind reels at the thought. At a minimum, they should be gathered a half-hour before Mass starts in some location where they could warm up together. No keyboard is required for this; just a pitch pipe if you lack a good innate sense of pitch.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    Yeah, you have to pick your battles, and often you have to settle, but this is one that I would pick (I'm only hyperbolically calling it a "battle;" I'm sure your priest would totally understand that the need for warm up space is something upon which you must insist.)

    You said that the school is "closed." So why can't you get a key to it and use it for this purpose on Sunday morning? Or if you must use the chapel, I would just say to those folks praying "I'm really sorry, but the choir must warm up before mass. I hope we don't disturb you too much while we do some vocal exercises and sing for a bit."
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    Yes, possibly. I suppose there is always a way around difficulties. The parking is a huge issue though - probably the most difficult to overcome. Perhaps, if I give a few weeks notice, I could begin for the Triduum. It's hard to break people's habits.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,677
    Sometimes you can't win. I have a choir room - two floors below the loft in the basement. Trying to move some of my older members up all those stairs would take far too long. They would be so winded they couldn't sing when they got there.
  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 873
    Sometimes warming-up in the car is necessary. I don't have the opportunity to warm-up at home in the morning before Mass without waking the rest of the family or the neighbors! The car makes for a nice (mostly) private practice space to do some simple vocal exercises such as humming and sirens. You may get funny looks from other drivers when you are stopped at light. Of course, if you are focusing too much on the voice, distracted driving could also be an issue.

    Is there a room in/near the church that the cantors can go to do more thorough warming up without distracting those praying in the church?

  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,678
    I've done choir warm ups in the following places:
    Choir lofts
    Social halls
    Choir rooms
    Sacristy
    Rectory
    Parish school
    Kitchen
    Chapel
    "Confessional" (one of the giant modern ones that was no longer in use)
    Coat closet
    Stairwell (gorgeous, by the way)
    Outside under a tree
    My office
    Other people's offices
    Conference rooms
    In a choir member's minivan

    When spaces are being used, you get creative.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    This makes me laugh! Thanks!

    While it is -25 degrees (celcius) the "outside under a tree" and the "minivan" may not be taken so well!

    We have no stairwells (new church).

    "My office"? Hah! I WISH I had one!

    "Coat closet"? Come to think of it... that's my office!

    "Conference rooms"? I'm not sure who designed our building, but they needed more ideas on how to build lots of great rooms for "gathering" outside of the "worship space" from the protestants (they seem very good at this).

    And with regard to the parking problem, it's exacerbated by the piles of snow which had to be plowed onto a good portion of spaces. Oh, the troubles!
  • Cantus67Cantus67
    Posts: 203
    I think if one uses a scientific method to warm up rather than just a "lets blast it out" method I think it'll work. I teach a full day pedagogy course at my church and use this sheet when talking about warm ups. Attached.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    I am not a DoM here, so I am wondering about the driving part. If the singer is the driver, could this not be a dangerous issue due to distractions? I remember having a small conversation with my siblings on the way from the parking zone to the apartment gate, and while swinging my minivan around barely coming within a centimeter from the side mirror to the entry card scanner. And surely warmups (serious ones, anyway) require more concentration than a slight conversation?
  • Blaise,

    In my experience, you are right. I've tried warming up on my way to choir practice (we DO warm up as a group, but I wanted to arrive a little prepared). I found that if I was focused on my warm-up, I wasn't paying enough attention to my driving. And when I started driving better, my warm-up became pretty ineffective.
  • Thank you for your advice. Unfortunately, at this time we are in the process of building a new church and are currently holding masses at an off-campus location in the cafeteria of a public school. So, no, there is no place for warmups. I have one day a week in the contract with the school to have a rehearsal, and then Sundays (and Saturday vigil) for masses.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    and are currently holding masses at an off-campus location in the cafeteria of a public school. So, no, there is no place for warmups.


    This must be a very interesting cafeteria.
    How do the children get to it if there aren't any hallways?
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    Well, Adam, it might have something to do with the terms of the contract. For example: if the contract only says they may use the cafeteria, the hallways are off limits, simply because it doesn't say they can use them in the contract. However, since I don't know what the terms of the contract are, I can't really say why the hallways wouldn't be able to be used.
  • That is exactly the situation. No need for such sarcasm. Besides, even if the hall was available, it would disturb the rosary. Now a question.....why is it that on a forum meant to be of help to all of us, some posters feel such a need to be skeptical and sarcastic?
  • It sounds like a tough situation indeed.
    I would wager a guess that Adam is not intending to be sarcastic, but moreover its his signature way of problem-solving through humor. I wouldn't take it personally- not one bit.

    Speaking for myself, as a pro singer I do not possess enough vocal talent and driving prowess to drive safely whilst warming up my instrument. I might begin my warmups with basic tongue/articulator exercises, maybe some sirens, etc., and I might even think through music. But I would not consider myself in good shape to go from the car to singing well. Its not a good idea overall.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    I would wager a guess that Adam is not intending to be sarcastic, but moreover its his signature way of problem-solving through humor. I wouldn't take it personally- not one bit.


    Thank you.


    I find people give up too easily.

    "There's no place to do it."

    Really? Are they saying the rosary in the hall way?

    cf. matthewj's list of warm-up locations above.
  • Oh, for goodness sakes....okay, since I have to thoroughly make myself clear......the cafeteria is at the end of a long hallway, which we are NOT ALLOWED to use per the terms of the contract with the school. We enter through outside doors into the cafeteria and exit through the same doors. No, the rosary is NOT being said in the hallway, since we cannot use it, remember? And, since the hallway is immediately off the cafeteria, if we WERE able to use it, since most hallways echo, it would disturb the rosary being said in the cafeteria......even with the door shut (unless of course the hallway was likened to that in The Wizard of Oz, making it extremely long and wide). Bottom line.....it's a rough situation and one that is not permanent, so we do the best we can. The thread was about warming up the choir for the best possible sound and whether or not individual warming up in cars was feasible. To reiterate my original thought I do not think a car warmup is a good idea, UNLESS there is no where else to warm up, therefore allowing at least some chance at being vocally ready for mass. Okay, I'm off my soap box. God bless everybody.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Spriggo
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,677
    And some who would warn of the dangers of driving and warming up at the same time, see no problem with talking on cell phones while driving. Go figure!
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    CharlesW,

    No cell phone use for me! My siblings were right in the minivan with me.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,677
    I don't even answer my phone when driving. In my city, it is far too dangerous to fool with a phone while behind the wheel.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    In my city, it is far too dangerous to fool with a phone while behind the wheel.


    In my case, it is far too dangerous to phone with a fool behind the wheel.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,677
    ROFL!