Matt Edwards

Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute

Mix it up Monday: 52 Card Pick-up

CCM Bannder no dates

Playing_cards_spread_on_floorWhen I was in school, “52 Card Pick-up” was a way for the older students to mess with the younger students. But when teaching voice, it is a great way to help your students loosen up their body.

If you have a student who is stiff and struggles to loosen up, this can be a great way to help them break them free. Take a stack of playing cards and spread them around the floor in your studio. Tell the student they have to pick them up while vocalizing.

Use a single vowel on a 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 or 1-3-5-3-1 pattern. Begin by telling them to pick up one card within the pattern, then two, then three. Then call out random numbers of cards for them to pick up. Then release all 52 again, and ask them to pick them up as quickly as possible. Make up your own games along the way.

The whole goal of this exercise is to distract them from “positioning” and help their body learn to sing without tension. You can also use this exercise during a song. You can tell them that they can only pick up one within each phrase or tell them to pick-up one card per word. Any task that will force them to move outside of their default position will work. Then have them stand still and sing; assess what changes. Then have them alternate between picking up cards and standing still. Keep doing this until the student is able to stand without being tense.

Have you ever played 52 card pick-up in lessons? Do you have other exercises for achieving the same goal? If so, please share below. If you are not yet following the blog, please submit your name and email address in the comment form (no comment necessary) and you will be added to the mailing list, ensuring you receive each new post in your email.

Thanks for reading and have a great week of teaching!


Matt Edwards is an Associate Professor of Voice/Director of Musical Theatre at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA, and Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute. He is the author of “So You Want to Sing Rock ‘N Roll” and dozens of articles and book chapters on functional voice training for non-classical styles. For more information visit 

2 comments on “Mix it up Monday: 52 Card Pick-up

  1. Craig Tompkins
    March 4, 2019

    I have a circular wobble board and several small items including a soft stuffed frog named Georgia, a koosh ball and a small goofy looking floppy rubber caterpillar named Archie who is my teaching assistant LOL! When students are stiff or locked into a “position”, they can stand on the wobble board, stand on one leg, walk around swinging arms or tossing the koosh ball or Georgia. If they’re still having trouble staying loose, Archie “jumps” at them and they have to dodge. The laughing as well as the various movements get them out of their locked up positions and when we go back to the song, invariably it’s better because we’ve released both physical and mental tension.


  2. Anonymous
    June 26, 2021

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This entry was posted on March 4, 2019 by in Misc. Thoughts.

Ranked the #1 New Release in "Vocal and Singing" on (October 2014), "So You Want To Sing Rock 'N' Roll?" covers voice science, vocal health, technique, style, and how to find your artistic voice in a way that is beneficial to both singers and teachers. Order your copy today!

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