Wander the World with Vocal Warm-Ups Pt. 1

By Marcus McReynolds - Oct 22 , 2018

This blog focuses on the benefits of teaching your music students folk songs from different cultures. It talks about how these songs not only teach the students about the culture of those countries but they also help them develop and learn new skills quicker than songs from our own culture.

The past NAfME President Lynn Brinckmeyer has spent a lot of time learning and teaching music concepts, how students learn to sing, and students’ vocal warm-ups from all around the world. From China to Morocco, Lynn has experienced many different things and ways of teaching. When you learn to sing, you may be using songs or techniques that originate in other cultures. There are a lot more similarities when it comes to music in different cultures than one might think.

One of the first questions Lynn asked herself was why does world music work? The answer is actually quite simple. As a human species, we have a natural desire to connect with one another. We are actually born with this need. Music is one way we can connect with ourselves on. Lynn explains that music is a bridge creating a way to connect with people all over the world. It is something that we can use to note our similarities and to note our differences. Both of these things can connect us together better.

Lynn talks a lot about why Folk songs are so important and useful when it comes to understanding music lessons and vocal warm-ups from around the world. First, folk songs are songs that are created and passed down from generation to generation in a certain culture. They are often made up of simple melodies and phrases, which is great for teaching in elementary music classes. They are super easy songs for beginner students to mess with different choral techniques on.

When it comes to how to teach choir, one really big problem teachers all over the globe face is the struggle of trying to squeeze all of the music standards into the small amount of time they actually have to teach. Using songs from other countries is a great way to include and talk about some of the music standards that don’t necessarily fit into your context of music or literature. This is because Folk songs can help you understand other people’s cultures and background. It can sometimes be hard to really understand what other cultures are like. However, even if you can’t travel to and live in these cultures, music is one way to partially experience them. Often times these folk songs tell stories or give us little glimpses of what life is like in these cultures. This type of music allows us to view the world through the lens of these other people.  And again, because folk sounds are pretty easy to learn, pick up, and predict, it won’t be more of a challenge than learning music from your own culture for your students.

Using ideas from around the world can actually make it a lot easier. There is a song Lynn talks about called “Ise Oluwa” that comes from Nigeria. She explains that this is a really easy song for students of all ages to learn. One example of a way to use this song is to have your students experiment with different vowels and sounds in the song. This will help them develop the knowledge that they have control over the sounds that leave their mouth just by adjusting the shape their mouth makes.

Overall, we are born with an innate desire for relationships and connections with people. Sometimes it may feel like we are limited to making connections with people only near us geographically. In reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. Music is one of the easiest ways to build connections with cultures from all over the world. Folk songs are a great way to incorporate these cultural difference into your music lessons when you are learning how to teach choir or just starting to learn to sing. After all, “Music is a universal bridge for connecting people across the globe.” (Lynn Brinckmeyer)