My philosophy towards warm up routines is that it should provide an opportunity for the students to rehearse something correctly and achieve a good level of sound quality. Warm ups should allow the students to practice executing different techniques, a few at a time, at a high level of quality. This philosophy is drastically different from the approach of “let’s challenge the students with something really hard so they won’t get bored”. A typical marching band / indoor drumline season is short, and should be spent perfecting musicality, listening, visual excellence and performance consistency. The season should not be spent trying to perfect the warm ups.
There is a very good reason why the groups that are really good are usually really good year after year. The opposite also holds true. The reason is, “Excellence is not a singular act, it is a habit.” (Thank you Aristotle) For a line to be able to play “clean”, it has to practice playing clean, a lot. If an ensemble begins each rehearsal day by immediately playing with a high level of sound quality and execution (or at least attempting to), they will learn and understand what “clean” sounds and feels like. If this is repeated on a daily basis, they will be able to achieve musical excellence much, much quicker.
Now, no line will be able to play clean right away. It takes work, discipline and patience. However, it is very possible to establish execution, technique and sound quality from the very first rehearsal. The first way is to have a warm up routine that is appropriate to the level of the group. Every group will have variables of ability level (some players or sections are more experienced than others), but most lines fall into 1 of 3 categories: Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced. It is of utmost importance that the music written for them (warm ups and the musical book), match the level of the group. You don’t want to have a warm up book that takes all year to get clean, because you will never get to work on and enjoy concepts such as consistency from show to show, performance skills and communication. That is where the real fun happens! Besides, every show has changes throughout the season which will require the members to be learning new parts and making adjustments. It is much easier to do this when they are not still struggling with the warm ups. And of course, you don’t want warm ups that are “too easy” so that the members get bored.
The warm up routine should be an opportunity for the students to practice and enjoy playing clean and together. Playing well and sounding good, produces confidence. Confidence produces consistency. Consistency produces results.