Music Activities and Warm-Up Ideas to (Literally) Wake Up Your Class!

Music Activities and Warm-Up Ideas to (Literally) Wake Up Your Class!

Do you have an early morning music class where you can’t seem to get the students alert and focused? Here are some great ideas from NAfME members to help you get your class into a musical frame of mind!

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“Shake Down Warm Up – speak 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 while shaking the right hand, then left hand, then right foot, then left foot. Repeat starting from 7 down to 1, next time 6 down to 1, etc. until your last one if simply one share of each!”


“Many mumbling mice, making mighty music in the moonlight, mighty nice!


“To Stop The Train is an easy round for children to learn. It can be found on page 280 of Arvida Steen’s “Exploring Orff: A Teacher’s Guide.” Arvida suggests adding movement to visually enhance the round, although she doesn’t describe any specific gestures.”

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Here are some video ideas for rhythmic games, which can be used in all kinds of subjects, not just music!








“A rhythm game where they all to a steady pulse- pad their thighs – clap their hands and click each finger- pad, pad, clap, clap, click click- on the clicks they say their name and a word that starts with the same letter- there could be a theme eg animals/ something from nature – or whatever you like!”


“Another game is- copy rhythms clapped by teacher- except if you hear the rhythm ‘dont clap this one back’ – if you clap then, you are out… You can also nad a rhythm ‘never clap this one back’ so that there are two rhythms not to be clapped back.”



“If they are working with pitch recognition you can play ‘pitch chairs’ – play little five note melodies, and for the lowest note they sit on the floor- one up: sit on knees, one up: sit on chairs – stand- stand on chairs…”



  1. Breathe in slowly through the nose. Blow out through the lips like a horse. Do the same again, but do a rolled ‘r’. Finally, try doing both together.
  2. Chew one, then two, then three imaginary pieces of gum. Swallow the gum!
  3. Breathe in slowly through the nose. Sigh, louder and louder on each out breath. Add shoulders (hunched on the in-breath, dropped on the out-breath) then knees (bend them on the out-breath).
  4. Massage your scalp and face with your fingertips. Grin widely, stick out your tongue, then finish with a big yawn.
  5. With softly-closed fists, gently ‘pummel’ your chest (preferably with an accompanying ‘Tarzan’ noise!), shoulders, tummy, thighs and anything else you can reach.



  1. Hum a major scale to the fifth, using the pattern 1-2-1-3-1-4-1-5-1-4-1-3-1-2-1, and sliding between the notes. Move the starting note up or down by a semitone and repeat.   Sing an arpeggio using the pattern 1-3-5-4-2-(7)-1. Sing the pattern twice, first to a legato ‘oo’ then a staccato ‘ah’. Move the starting note up or down by a semitone and repeat.  
  2. Pick a fricative consonant such a ‘v’ and pulse five times on it. Start loud and get softer, or vice versa. Work through other fricative consonants: ‘j’ (as in “vision”), ‘z’, ‘th’ (as in “there”).  
  3. Sing a descending major scale to ‘ninga ninga, ninga ninga, ninga ninga, ning …’ (Breathing halfway through). Move the starting note up or down by a semitone and repeat. Focus on getting plenty of tone in the ‘ng’ sound and keeping the halfway breath quick and silent.  
  4. Start on a single held note to “ah”.  Moving only your lips (not your tongue), change the vowel sound to “oh” then “oo” then back again.  Then start on “ah” again and, moving only your tongue, change the vowel sound to “eh” then “ee” then back again.  Focus on keeping the “ah” space in the mouth and throat and not “pinching” the sound when you change vowels.



“Try singing “den-tal floss is ve-ry good for teeth” while moving up and down from do to sol to do.”

“Create silly word combinations to use while doing triads or single note warmups, like “double bubble gum” or “quadruple double bubble gum,” etc.”


“Have them THINK the pitches of a triad, then have them sing every other note.”


“Have each section solfege the scale, starting at different times, then on the descent have your sop/top voices stay on the tonic, and the others stop at the 6th, 4th, and 2nd respectively, not resolving the chord until cued by you.”


“Possibly, provide a big space for them to move about, and give them something specfic to do….move waving 
their arms, crawl, jump, walk and then on cadences have them make a pose. Find simple things for them to do that are related to the music, tossing ball (gently) to a partner, clapping games, folk dances and even drawing. They will  op in and out, and sometimes with younger children the more the hear it the better!”


“Start by having everyone hiss for 16 seconds. You count down from 16 to one – but instead of saying “one” you say How many made it [raise your hand]? Great! Can you do it from 20? Remember: relax, take a deep breath, and save your air at the beginning – start quietly!” Then give them a chance to take a deep breath, start, and count down from 20 to four, then say “louder, louder, louder” for the last three seconds. Go immediately into the next exercise: Soo-oh-sah-seh-see on do-mi-so-mi-do, moving up by half-steps.”

“Sing the alphabet quickly, using a 5-note scale up and down three times, ending do – si – do on x – y- z. Start slowly nd at a low pitch (the goal is tongue quickness and distinct consonants, not range extension). Sing in the front half-nch of the face (use the tip of the tongue, not the middle).”

“Sing to the enunciators: “Lips, Teeth, Tip-of-the-tongue” so – la – fa-fa-fa-fa, fa – so – mi-mi-mi-mi, mi – fa – re-re-re-re, re – mi – do-do-do-do.”


“”Hoo – oh – oo” is a great singing warm-up that I picked up years ago from a friend who was assistant director for the Seattle Boys Choir and Seattle Girls Choir. She said this was a frequent vocal warm-up exercise to get boys’ voices bridging an octave. I have found it just as useful with girls, and with adults. The “Hoo” is high and open, the “oh” is big and low. Dropping a whole octave really gives you the feeling of the different voice registers.”


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“The “Hel-LO” vocal warm-up exercise is one I devised myself (as far as I can remember). I use it when singers have a melody which drops down to Middle C or below for a few notes, causing their voice to thin out and disappear. Young singers who don’t understand how to transition into another register believe they must continue with the head voice on down the scale, where they seem unable to sing with any volume.”


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“Then we turn the talking into singing… I turn spoken “LO” into a sustained tone, and now I’m singing it, easy and forward and with a bit of volume, but not pushing. The “LO” sounds and feels different than the higher note, “Hel-“. For now, it’s okay that it is VERY different. Gradually they will learn how to blend the different registers so that high and low notes alike sound as if the same person is singing them! Try it — with this vocal warm-up exercise, every student I’ve ever had has been able to sing the low note with better volume.

As we continue to use the “Hel-LO” over multiple lessons, the singing muscles memorize the feeling of the drop into chest voice, and it becomes easier to switch to it from head voice, and to blend the two.

“The third vocal exercise is pretty new in my studio, but I like it so much I’ve been using it a lot. Kids really get “in touch” with the movement of their larynx as it travels up and down throughout this vocal warm-up.”


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Do you have other suggestions? Share them with us in the online Amplify community.


Kristen Rencher, Senior Manager, Member and Student Programs, February 13, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (