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  • Writer's pictureDavid Winkler

Well-Tempered Warm-ups

It's getting colder outside ...time for some

Well-Tempered Warm-ups!

Do you include warm-up exercises as part of your rehearsal schedule? If you conduct a church orchestra or instrumental ensemble, you have probably noticed that many of your players struggle when they encounter unfamiliar keys. Those who grew up in a band environment may never have seen key signatures with so many sharps in them!

The string players are not used to playing multiple flats.


a two-volume series of warm-up books for church instrumentalists. Each volume contains scales and chorales in all 12 major keys, plus 6 minor keys. In addition to the music, the text to the first stanza of each hymn is included.

Here's how I typically use these books with the group I conduct:

Most often we will do three selections, two in major keys and one in minor. We play the scale first, sometimes altering the rhythm or articulation. Everyone is asked to play a full but not-too-loud tone, to blend with the ensemble, and to watch the conductor carefully for tempo and dynamics.

Then we play the chorale, again focusing on blend, intonation, and listening to each other. If, later in the rehearsal, we'll be playing a piece in a more difficult key (e.g., B major), I may include that key in the warm-up time. Often, for at least one of the selections, I will call attention to the hymn text printed at the bottom of the page. The entire process takes 5-10 minutes.

Doing this helps give a good focus to the beginning of the rehearsal, with the players warming up not only individually, but also as a group. It also provides an educational component, as many players have not mastered all the scales and are unfamiliar with basic music theory. Even though it takes a little extra time, I find that, when I skip the warm-up time, my rehearsals usually don't go as well.

So I encourage you if you have not already, get these books for your group and use them! They are available in a beautifully-bound book form, or you can purchase downloadable PDFs and print your own books.

For more information about Well-Tempered Warm-ups, visit our website.

**By the way — If you didn't catch the reference, the "Well-Tempered" in the title is a throwback to J.S. Bach's famous work, The Well-Tempered Clavier, in which he wrote a prelude and fugue in every key for the purpose of demonstrating a new system of intonation which had been developed for the harpsichord.


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