Aural Comprehension Guide

David Loberg Code          Western Michigan University

Warm-up Exercises

Classes will often begin with group warm-up exercises (done standing up). The purpose of these exercises is to get your mind, ears, and voices focused on aural skills, and to practice specific skills in an improvisatory environment. For example, we will perform melodic improvisations (over a group drone) emphasizing particular scale degrees or intervals found in the melodies used for sightsinging. Because you set your own pace and decide what note to sing next, these improvisations allow you to gain confidence with syllables in a way that sightsinging does not. The drone (usually on Do) provides a reference point for tuning and restarting if you get lost. Other activities may include performing rhythmic improvisations, rhythmic canons, group accelerandos, chord resolutions, and sonic meditations. Some of these exercises are designed to develop more subtle ensemble skills such as adjusting your intonation and/or tempo to match other performers or reacting quickly to stimuli from others.
We will always begin warm-up by singing 'A = 440 Hz' as a reference pitch and clapping 'quarter note = 60' as a reference tempo. You will find that after a few weeks, you will begin to be able to reproduce these reference points accurately without any outside assistance: you will just know them by feel. From your reference tempo you can figure out almost any other tempo quite accurately without using a metronome. Similarly, you can derive any other pitch from the 'A' using intervals. The goal of this is not to develop perfect pitch, but a good sense of relative pitch.


David Loberg Code, School of Music, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 49008. E-mail: 
Revised: 28.Feb.99       (c) 1999