Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Warm Up Suggestions for Melismatic Passages

      I'm trying to teach runs in Purcell's Sound the Trumpet, and was wondering if you guys had any wonderful warm ups for melismatics runs? to make the students familiar with that type of singing?
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on February 18, 2016 11:45am
12345432 legato, slow quarter notes followed by
12345432 staccato, eighth notes (with a good 'h')  followed by
123454321  'mixed articulation,' sixteenth notes.
Sing on any any vowel, but I like a good ringing e best.
on February 19, 2016 9:39am
Hi, Laurel!
What a splendid work to perform!  Bravo!  Alright: warm-ups.  I would never use warm-ups to teach the song.  I use warm-ups to make my choir sound awesome.  However, that being said, when my middle school choir performed Barber's Agnus Dei (in SATB), I did breakdown the work into 27 segments as sight-reading exercises before I even introduced Barber's score, so, when they first saw the score, they realized they already knew it and just had to connect the phrases they knew and make it musical. In your case, I would gather all the melismata to ascertain which ones were exactly the same, even though they may be a major third or a perfect fourth apart.  Now you have a list of various melismatic phrases.  Have you heard the word "anacrusis?"  An anacrustic note or phrase includes what some people like to mistakenly called "pick-up notes" or "up beats," terms originally used by those who did not know the correct term and carried onward by others who should have known better.  Anyway, anacrusis includes those notes which, even though in the middle of a phrase, are musically/aurally attached to its following notes. (adj.: anacrustic)  In Purcell's opening vocal statement, the long note is followed by a series of four sixteenth-notes.  They are anacrustic to the following eighth-note.  However, this entire phrase is anacrustic to the following quarter-note.  The anacrustic sixteenth notes are a flourish, or embellishment, announcing the larger eighth note on the word "the."  The word "the" is certainly not an important word and leads to the word "trumpet."  That is, the smaller eighth-note and its text is anacrustic to the note and word "trumpet."  So, Laurel, this exercise phrase must include the sixteenth notes, the eighth note, and the two principal quarter-notes.  Even on the four note phrase "sound the trumpet," the word "the" and its note are anacrustic to the word "trumpet" and its notes.  An analysis of all the little melismatic phrases always demonstrates this pattern of anacrustic melismatic notes leading into the principal note and its text.  The point being that most every melismatic section starts on an anacrusis, the off-beat.  Where it does not, there are no notes prior to a new melismatic phrase, although some would say that the connection comes from the prior phrase and is mentally carried over.  Well, you can try teaching that to your students.  Some will grasp it. So, you have this short list of melismatic phrases, now go back and include the anacrusis for each if you have not already done so.  Teach these as sight-reading exercises. ("Students, which exercise am I now singing?  Kareem?  You say it was #5.  Excellent!  How did you arrive at that answer?)  Once they have learned well the aural image of each of these exercises modeled expertly by you, they are now ready to respond in kind. Have them sing slowly at first and then, as they show comprehension, sing more quickly.  Only gradually increase the tempo always gauging the accuracy of their performance.  Remember, the anacrustic notes MUST aurally lead into the principal notes. Even the notes that accompany the text "You make the list'ning shores rebound," from the very first note, demonstrate this concept of anacrustic patterns.  Even on the lone syllable bound (rebound), there is anacrusis.  Yes, a shorter anacrusis is often located within a longer anacrusis which results in melismata. This anacrusis/melismata concept occurs continually throughout the work.  Remember the days of "no bar lines?" Now you can perhaps understand that concept a little more in detail.  Once accomplished, you have warm-ups for tone (correct singing), sight-reading, and Baroque musicality.  Bravo.  I hope this helps you, Laurel.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 22, 2016 1:51am
...You did Barber's Agnus Dei with middle schoolers?
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 23, 2016 7:33am
Middle school students are wonderful in that they are old enough to perform most anything you desire, and inexperienced enough to not know how difficult your request is. Someone once said, "You have not because you asked not." Challenge the middle school choir; raise the bar on them.  They will enjoy the accomplishment and the fact that you respected their abilities.  You will be remembered with joy for a lifetime.  Yes, in SATB, not SSAATTBB. In fact, at festival competition, we scored ones in all categories including sight-reading. We also performed the work at The Basilica of the National shrine of the Immaculate Conception (The "Shrine" in Washington, D.C.). The original key was maintained as well as all of the notes. The largest problem was working around the deep bass notes.  The integrity of the work, otherwise, was never sacrificed.  The following year, we performed Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine.  We also performed Gerre Hancock's Judge eternal as composed and Mozart's Dies irae from his Requiem in d-moll. The following year we performed Randall Thompson's Alleluia. In 2012, we performed in the world premiere of Karl Jenkins' Peacemakers at Carnegie Hall, NYC.  This work includes 17 movements of which 3 are not scored for Youth Chorus.  Therefore, we performed the remaining 14 movements.  We also performed annually at St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC for seven consecutive years. I have been richly blessed.  Thank-you for asking.  Yes, I am now retired and do accept guest conducting positions.
on February 20, 2016 9:47am
I have found that singing melismas on "fi fi fi" (or fee fee fee) is better than using an h. It connects to the abdominal energy to create the articulation. Some years ago ACDA did a presentation on melismas that are only done with the vibrato but that is difficult with young singers. Sometimes you can get that with an abdominal pulse every four notes on 16th note patterns. Good luck. Teaching fast moving melismas can be fun. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on February 24, 2016 10:03am
With my choirs, melisma learning consisted of two distinct tasks: music and technique. We all sing the melisma a in everyone's parts, a couple of beats at a  time or wherever the pattern is. The we sing the whole piece, just melismas, often everyone on all parts. This is all pretty slow. Then we sing slowly accenting 1st and 3rd sixteenth notes, usually one run at a time. Then accenting 1st sixteenth of four. Then first sixteenth of eight. This is all to teach them to hear the pattern and audiate first, but they also begin singing lightly, as they should, on the sixteenths which are not accented. After they know where they are going we then deal with technique. Doing each sixteenth from the abdomen they can't get light. Once they hear it sing lightly and accented properly, they often just begin to accent on the proper beats and the other sixteenths just flow. 
  • You must log in or register to be able to reply to this message.