Set Warm Up? or When Does Autopilot Kick In?

So invariably at some point I usually do a set warm-up.  It has changed throughout the years and most recently it has taken the form of some prerecorded "tap-like" sounds making the right rhythms over top a nice back beat.  This way the kids can hear how the rhythm of a step is supposed to go and then "copy" it as they do the step.  Humans are natural born imitators so why not use that to our advantage?

So what's the downside?  Well, it depends.  Some kids get bored of repetition fast and others can handle a lot (unfortunately I can handle extreme amounts so my perspective is always skewed towards more).  There's no doubt that repetition has a place in tap training.  It's quite valuable to have the muscle memory to pull off a wide range of steps without having to think about it.  On the other hand, at some point their brains will shut down and they'll just go through the motions without really trying to make everything sound good.

So what I try to do is use the set warm up for a couple of months or so (maybe longer or shorter depending on the group of kids I teach) and then do some "live" warm-ups.  There's no doubt that after doing set warm-ups for a while the kids are not as quick at picking up new patterns in a live warm-up, but the quality of the steps they're doing has usually improved.  So it's basically a balancing act.

Do you use a set warm-up and if so for how long?

Rod Howell at


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