If there is one common thread that I see in dysfunctional singing it is a lack of core stability and postural muscle tone.
It’s no wonder: as a society we are less physically fit.
Children play outside less these days. Computers and gaming consoles glue us to chairs and sofas.
With lightning-fast internet access we rarely actually need to leave the house as virtually anything can be ordered online and delivered to our doors.
Most singers I see tend to ‘hang on their ligaments’ rather than ‘stand with their muscles.’
Good singing is an athletic act. Singing well in your everyday, relaxed, ‘standby mode’ is pretty difficult.
You need to get your body ‘amped up’ and working dynamically to support your voice to its full potential.
Active Posture in a Nutshell
It is not merely about standing up straight.
It is about investing energy into key muscle groups that are designed to stabilize our body so it can move with more efficiency.
In a nutshell it’s about maintaining a sense of physical readiness whilst singing. Imagine getting ready to run, jump or fight.
Your body prepares by increasing its stability from head to toe.
In a perfect postural world you should be able to draw a straight line down from your earlobe to the middle of your shoulder down into your hip.
This core relationship can be maintained regardless of what your arms and legs are doing.
You can do it standing, sitting, kneeling, crouching, etc. Getting into this position can often feel like hard work and sometimes even quite odd at first.
Here is an exercise to help you:
1. To be able to compare what we are about to do with less ideal singing, let’s have you briefly use some bad technique! Try calling out a happy “Hey” with your body overly relaxed and slouched. This is not what singers are supposed to do (!) but it will allow you to feel the difference that good posture will make to your vocal effort.
2. Now, sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Prepare to stand up to the point where you begin to transfer the weight from your bottom into your legs and feet. Notice the muscle activity from your neck into your back and down into your pelvis.
3. Begin to stand but let your bottom hover an inch or two off of the chair. Notice how much stabilizing effort moves into the whole neck/torso/pelvis. You may also notice a lot of effort in your legs. Try to ignore the legs as much as possible. As your core strength coordinates over time the legs will feel freer.
4. Gently sit back down but maintain the stabilizing effort in your body by only letting your bottom gently rest on the chair. Do not let your bottom bear any weight. This is the ideal Active Posture position for singing whilst sitting.
5. Try calling out your happy “Hey!” again and notice the lack of voice effort.
6. Relax your body and let the chair bear your weight and call out again. The voice will work much harder.
The problem with ‘standby’ posture– not using the technique above– is that
it puts additional pressure on the muscles surrounding the larynx making voice effort increase.
It also makes it difficult to take a quick, reflexive breath and access your respiratory support muscles.
All of these compromises mean the whole vocal mechanism is not free to get into the positions it requires quickly and easily.
Don’t forget that Active Posture also applies to singer-guitarists and singer-pianists. Most singers will slouch or hunch over when playing their instrument.
The Active Posture maneuver will immediately improve vocal efficiency in both sitting and standing.
My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids
Alvymarie Rodriguez – “Bound To You” (Cover)
What a lovely breathy tone on the low end. Your higher-intensity sounds don’t disappoint either. You have lovely pop phrasing and your riffs are solid. My only critique is that I’d like a bigger sound on the top end. It sounds a little “safe” for the style. The climax of a power ballad should sound like the wheels are about to come off. Maybe try playing with more yell-like sounds or even some vocal distortion.
Igor Drvenkar – “Delilah” by Tom Jones (Cover)
What a wonderfully camp cover. So over the top, I love it. You sound like a Tom Jones tribute act apart from one thing: your diction. I don’t have a problem with singing in the accent at all. But if you wanted to exploit your similarity to Tom in order to generate income then you might need to work on the pronunciation a little. If you don’t want to be a Tom soundalike then it’s time to try to move your sound away from his.
Memeth – “Big Me” by Foo Fighters (Cover)
The sound quality is making it a little difficult to accurate appraise the singing. Having said that, your pitching, rhythm and tone are good. My only real critique is that the song is flatlining and really needs more shape, dynamics and variation of voice quality. That would move it from background music to something the audience can really get into.
Mark Flatt – “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel (Cover)
Background gigs can be really tough. You are making great but subtle use of your technology from your iPad to your pedal board. Your singing is very appropriate for the atmosphere. Everything you’re doing is right for the environment. Well done.
D.C. Pronk – “Body and Soul” (Cover)
The problem with attempting to sing jazz with a backing track is that lack of human musical reciprocity. Nothing can substitute the interaction between live musicians. As a result, jazz backings usually feel stiff, unyielding and stale. Swinging on top of that is almost impossible to do well. Singing without swinging and without the human touch makes jazz feel disappointing. My best advice is to get some live players to play with. It will give your voice a real lift.
Dane Chalfin is a leading industry vocal coach and voice rehabilitation specialist. His clients include well-known artists and actors and his teacher training courses attract professional vocal coaches and singing teachers from around the world. He is also Principal Lecturer in Performance and Artistry at Leeds College of Music. www.21stcenturysinger.co.uk