This month we'll explore 4 core areas of singing technique: posture, breathing, resonance and tone. These are the topics that start most voice lessons, and also the ones that even the most experienced singers refer back to time and time again.
The first time I went in for a professional massage, I was about 15 years old. At our first session, the therapist told me that my neck and shoulders were so tight, she should take me on as a charity case. This continued, until two years later, when suddenly everything changed. “Are you less stressed now?” she asked me. “Did you meet someone?”
The truth was, I had picked up a new love: dancing. While I had always been an exercise geek (my parents owned a fitness center), it wasn’t until I started dancing that I learned the fundamentals of good body alignment. It’s more than sitting up straight; good posture is the foundation and core of every movement you make, as well as a resting position that rejuvenates your body.
For singers, that means cultivating a fluid body position of strength and vitality. Contrary to what many voice teachers teach, no body part should ever be locked when you sing. It’s a similar case with dancing (however, while we’re on the analogy, I would like to point out one important difference with singing: ballet dancers pull in their abs and lift their chest, while singers must never grip in with their abs or muscularize the lift of the chest).
Posture is one of the first things we notice about a person. It tells us a lot about his or her psychology, whether or not they are confident, healthy, and open to conversation. Before you start to worry, though, remember that just as the action of smiling can improve your mood, good posture can actually improve your confidence.
There are many warm-up exercises you can use before a singing session to improve your posture. If you practice yoga, Pilates or dance regularly, you might need nothing more than minute of quiet breathing, bringing awareness to your body as a whole. Use this mental checklist throughout the day, until and even when good body alignment becomes second nature:
1. Feet hip-distance apart, with weight balanced between feet
2. Knees soft and slightly bent, allowing pelvis to tuck in slightly
3. Most important of all: the spine stretches and lengthens from the tailbone to the top of the head
4. Shoulders comfortably back and down, level over hips
5. The chest is buoyant and open (I often imagine a beam of light flowing out from my sternum)
6. Jaw is relaxed, hinging back and down
7. The tongue is relaxed (similar to "ng") position
8. Soft gaze, inner smile