A very typical vocal warmup is to sing scales up and down from a note. Then again from the next note up. And so on, so you're going up and down but slowly moving higher and higher (or sometimes lower and lower). Often they'll play a chord at the end of each scale up/down.

But what is actually being played here, typically? Would it be as simple as playing each major scale, moving the starting note up chromatically each run? Or staying in the same key but moving the starting note one degree each time?

I can find an example video if needed but I'm assuming any vocalist or pianist who works with singers knows exactly what I'm talking about.

2 Answers 2


You are right. Typically these are just major or minor scales, moving up by a semitone each time.

But you can use anything that is relevant for the singer - sometimes you may want wider intervals to help them warm up over fifths or octaves for example.

  • When the pianist begins/ends each 'run' with a chord, would that typically be the major chord of the 1st degree of the scale then? e.g. play C major chord, then run up/down C major scale, play C#major chord, run up down C# major scale?
    – Mr. Boy
    Dec 3, 2015 at 11:39
  • That's what I often see, yes. The chord matches the scale.
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Dec 3, 2015 at 11:47

Adding to Dr Mayhem's answer, if the scale stayed in the same key, but just moved up a note each time, you'd be singing modes rather than scales. It's another good way of doing the warm up, and will get you used to how music works probably better, using both strategies. Also don't forget to use different sounds. With choirs, I've done the usual 'lah', but 'mee', 'ooh', 'doh', and 'day' work, along with 'bah' at the risk of sounding like sheep... Playing a chord at each beginning and end is just to adjust the ear. If, at the end of a Cmaj. run, you play G#7, it'll take you straight into C#.

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