Posture for singing are words that need some clarity. To many of us, the word “posture” means “inflexible,” and that’s not what we want for singing. Your ultimate best posture for singing always means free, fluid movement, with the spine comfortably and continuously lengthening or gradually stretching upward.
If we think of a soldier standing at attention, this is exactly what we do not want for singing. We want the opposite: your optimal body alignment for singing will not feel or appear rigid or immobile. On the contrary, it will feel very right and will appear confident and engaging to your listeners. So we begin now, on this journey to get you there!
This post is a deep dive into exploring your very best posture for singing.
Stand Up Straight and Sing! (Thanks to Jessye Norman)
We probably should begin with the evolutionary fact that human beings originally did not walk on two feet. You could argue that the fundamental design of our bodies is not ideally constructed for standing for such long hours. But as humans evolved from being cavemen and cavewomen, standing on the feet and walking embodied physical power, a force to be reckoned with.
Fluid and Free Posture for Singing
Singing in a standing position gives us great access to enagaging the network of muscles in the lower body. The muscles of the upper torso in your body will never be enough to properly support a singing voice. Going about it this way leads only to extraneous tension, which rob you of the energy required to sing your best.
Remember that your singing voice is powered by the larger and much stronger muscles of the lower body. Just to be clear, defining “lower body muscles” includes the intercostal muscles of the rib cage, certainly.
But does singing your best always stricty require that you “stand up straight?” The answer here is plainly no. Here’s just one short example of great singing, not dependent upon standing. And there are many more to be found and admired.
So the question is how do we ensure our best singing, regardless of body position?
How Stress Ruins Posture for Singing
I am constantly on the lookout for better ways to help myself avoid reacting to the strain and stress of this life. As mentioned in previous posts, the most powerful and relilable natural remedy I’ve found so far is the 4-7-8 Breath Exercise. Much-needed anesthetic for the unstoppable barrage of daily pressures we all endure. Give this one a try as it will change your life for the better!
Still, there are going to be moments like this, right?
Leave the Pushing and Straining to
the Worldwide Wrestling Federation!
If you are feeling like this photo above, please allow time for yourself to recover, before you attempt singing. Pushing and forcing through singing when your body/mind is under physical strain is only going to make you more miserable. Stop and rest, please. Lie down and rest, breathe, and simply wait with your symptoms. You will be giving yourself not only a chance at signficant physical relief, but often a new clarity of mind will have a real chance to emerge.
Your takeaway here is that the risk of setting back progress in your vocal technique is too great, when we consider insisting upon singing while our bodies are badly stressed and in need of some form of recovery.
Your New Best Friend: Basic Yoga
There are so many forms of yoga! How are you supposed to know how to choose which are best for a singer and for your personal needs, specifically? It is generally not necessary to get terribly advanced or to feel you must invest in the types of yoga that make you cringe with physical pain. This simply is not necessary and likely will be counterproductive to building a reliable, healthy, consistent vocal technique.
Your ideal posture for singing will always include careful attention to your “body breath.” Simply put: To sing your best, you must breathe low.
Many singers discover that basic yoga stretches pay off hugely. Try this while breathing mist from a cool air humidifier. You will be energizing and hydrating at the same time. It is a surefire way to experience better singing immediately!
Alexander Technique: A Singer’s Ultimate Ticket to Ride!
Why do so many singers of all styles of music love the Alexander Technique? It is easy to learn and the benefits are so profound! Impossible to put a number on all of the different ways that Alexander Technique will advance your singing!
F. Matthias Alexander was an Australian stage actor, who lived from 1869-1955. When he experienced recurrent larynigitis on stage, doctors had no solutions to offer. Necessity being the mother of intervention, Alexander embarked upon his own investigation, to discover both the cause and the solution for his loss of voice.
He discovered that the essence of the problem was his lack of optimal body alignment. Too much pulling down of the muscles in his neck spiraled down into a series of troubles, actually causing his voice to fail. How frustrating when doctors are not able to offer any help! Alexander became determined to find more physical ease in moving and speaking, to resolve the problem for himself and for others.
Documentary of a Great Thinker: F. Matthias Alexander
“We are giving nature her opportunity,” is the way Alexander briefly explained his discovery and instruction for enjoying healthy body alignment, to work for your voice. You can read more about F. Matthias Alexander here in this great article.
I am a firm believer in being very discriminating, when choosing the best resources for information. Let’s explore some videos, featuring excellent teachers working with singers and with others, who are learning Alexander Technique. We begin with a basic instructional video:
So it is about maintaning a slight stretching or lengthening up of the spine. Have you tried the magic exercise yet?
Cornerstone of Great Singing Technique
We stand at the wall with only the back of the head and the heels of the feet touching the wall. No other part of your body touches the wall. Just relax and do not rush the process, please.
Notice that your head is slightly stretched up and is also a little bit back in its position. This is what you want, and standing in this position at the wall ensures optimal body alignment.
Exhale for a Clean Start
We focus next on exhaling the breath completely. Just blow the air out of your lungs. When you are ready, get a good breath in. As you exhale the breath and inhale, direct the air lower, as if you are breathing into your abdomen. Keep the same body position, standing at the wall with only the back of the head and the heels of the feet touching that wall.
Next, feel with your hands where your lower ribs are. Gently touch the lower ribs, as you are exhaling and then inhaling, directing the breath low, into the abdomen. You get a sense that the rib cage is expanding, spreading apart, as you inhale.
The muscles between the ribs, called intercostal muscles, help us keep our ribs spread, widened, opened up, while we sing. With your next low breath in, please “hiss” out the breath, creating only a narrow stream of air being exhaled. Make it last as long as you can, without straining or going blue in the face! Remember: no pushing, forcing, or straining.
As you practice this “hissing breath” exercise, the muscles get stronger, so you can create a longer narrow stream of exhaled air, while remaining comfortable. We sing on this narrow stream of exhaled breath. Of course there are other exercises for achieving the same goal. What are some of your favorite exercises for great breath support? Please share them in the comments below!
Body Alignment and Breath Support: Rock Your Vocal Technique!
The magic of standing at the wall is that it greatly encourages you to automatically breathe low. The combination of good body alignment and consistent breath support is the cornerstone, the greatest foundation, for your ultimate best singing technique!
Practice singing your music while standing at the wall, with only the back of your head and the heels of your feet touching the wall. It is likely you will feel an instant burst of power and freedom in your singing! Astounding, isn’t it?!
When you stand away from the wall, how do you maintain this great new technique? Your answer here is to anchor to the wall, using the muscles in the heels of your feet. Press your heels down, almost as if you are digging them into the floor. Have the sense of pressing your heels into the floor. You will discover that your head and spine will instantly return to the same great alignment as when you were standing at the wall! So much more freedom and power for your singing and your artistic expressivity!
A Good Example of What to Avoid
Here we have an example of a renowned celebrity classical singer, the very special Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli. Oh, no! It sure looks and sounds like she needs a review in Alexander Technique! Her body alignment is not good, and she clearly has a lot of extraneous muscular tension in her head, neck, face, and chest. Sorry to report this is an example of what you do not want to do, if you care about enjoying singing for the rest of your life.
She is breathing by lifting her chest. This is actually the opposite of low breathing. Please just relax muscles across the top of the chest, and allow your lower muscles to do the work!
In this video, unfortunately she frequently pulls her head down and forward, the opposite of good body alignment. The head needs to be more consistently up and back, to prevent muscular tensions that cheat you out of physical energy and actually block you off from singing your best. –No thanks, because you are better than this!
Unnecessary Muscular Tension Robbing Your Singing!
At 2:11 until about 2:15, look at the unpleasant contortions in her mouth, pulling her head back with great tension in the back of her neck. Thankfully, the high note there does show much better position, with the head slightly up and back.
Frankly, she is getting away with an awful lot of poor technique here, capitalizing upon her celebrity status. Sure, we understand about being intensely expressive with this aria. However, surely the better approach is with less extraneous muscular tensions.
Too much of the singing in this video displays technique that puts too much pressure on the throat. This interferes with good vocal health and, again, it is the opposite of what we are going for, to ensure you sing well for the rest of your life.
But what is your opinion of this one? Tell us in the comments, please!
And here we have an example of a celebrity opera singer, tenor Juan Diego Flórez, who certainly does have some wonderful body alignment going on! Watch how his head is postioned up and slightly back. His singing is responding with great freedom and ease. The sound is so beautiful and resonant! He sings by using the power of his lower muscles.
We learn how to coordinate our muscles for good singing. Athletes do the same thing, learning that some muscles relax and other muscles do the heavy lifting, so to speak.
Freedom and Flexibility in Your Singing
Here is an excellent video lesson for singers who want to learn how to sing with the greatest freedom. And this is how you can fully express yourself as a singing artist!
This one is highly recommended, so please do give it a chance. It is astounding how much easier it can be to express what you want in your singing, when you take the time to learn this simple technique!
Are your shoulders too rounded? This is an example of unwanted muscular tension, robbing you of physical energy, blocking you off from your best singing. And, once more, your solution is Alexander Technique!
Drilling Down to Release Tensions
Another highly recommended video, from a fine teacher of Alexander Technique who is also a singer.
A particularly excellent video of a brief coaching session with a singer, who is using Alexander Technique to her great advantage! Instruction like this helps us put the pieces together in a simple but powerful way, so the improvement in your singing will last for the rest of your life.
Most Important is YOU!
The purpose of this blog is to be of service to you personally and your needs and desires to learn to sing your best, for the rest of your life. Please feel free to add your comments below. You keep the conversation real and I personally value your input, your feedback, and always your great questions!
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