Layer Cake

Duration:  5 - 10 minutes

Age: 9+

Players: Ideally between eight and twelve

This makes a good second or third exercise in a vocal warm-up.

  • Stand in a circle.  The leader visibly establishes a pulse by swaying, dancing or clicking fingers.  (Applying physical movement to a pulse makes you, for a moment at least, the most interesting thing happening and so the focus of attention.)  The tempo should be quite leisurely. 
  • S/he then improvises a vocal piece lasting four or eight beats.  This phrase can be played with until considered satisfactory at which point the leader, still repeating their phrase, signals to the next person in the circle. 
  • The next person now augments the first phrase by putting something of their own on top.  Again, they can play with it for a couple of cycles before fixing on something, at which point they signal to the next person whose turn it is now to further embellish the phrase.  When everyone is in, repeat the phrase a couple of times to enjoy it and then stop.

Notes: Make sure people wait until signalled before adding their own part.

This is a game which gets easier if played frequently.  Self-consciousness will gradually fade if the atmosphere is supportive.  Don’t insist on a sung contribution; speech is fine.  People will sing when they are ready.

Encourage, by example if not verbally, players to include spaces in their contributions to the loop.  There is no need to fill the entire four (or eight) beats and the piece will be better for it.