Updated: Jan 17
Sometimes it can feel like a lot of singing lessons spend time on peripheral aspects of the body. “Just when I feel like I’m getting into my song, I’m reminded about how I’m standing.” While, as singers, we must be mindful of an element the of stage presence needed to communicate a song, there are also scientific reasons for this focus on the way the body is structured. Here are two anatomical considerations: 1) As singers we rely on breath as our vehicle. If the body is collapsed or restrictively straight the breathing mechanisms might not have the freedom they need to breathe easily. 2) The intrinsic parts of our “sound system” in the throat are very, very close to the cervical spine. The bones in the neck are quite close to the larynx or voice box. Our aim to sing freely might be hindered if the head and neck are in an unusual position.
Our attention to alignment, however goes far beyond the direct access to the breath and larynx. The ability to bring awareness in the larger parts of the body will teach us to become aware of the tiny parts of the body related to singing. If I can release unnecessary tension in my legs (for example), then I might be able to sense the difference between a tight jaw and a free jaw.
Here are some inspiring quotes from major voice practitioners on the subject:
Arthur Lessac: “When you stand and breathe properly, you free yourself of unnecessary muscular tensions, aches and strains.” Cicely Berry: “We rely on the resonating spaces for the quality of sound we produce- and whether we use the full potential of this resonance depends on our posture and relaxation.” Berry is also notable for saying “one tension leads to another.” Perhaps, if we have less tension in our spine we’ll have less tension in our singing. After all, our bodies are our instruments. Imagine playing on a bent flute or a guitar that has a crooked fingerboard. Luckily, we can look to a mirror, lay on the floor, or take a few images from our teachers to realign ourselves every time we go to sing. Happy singing lessons!