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The Case of the Craned Neck Singer-Pianist

Markey, 22 years old, was making his singing too hard for himself – and failing to hit higher range.

Anyone who has to play piano while they sing will want to know about Markey’s breakthrough. Here’s the “case summary”:

Markey was habitually hunched over the piano with bent elbows and tightly extended neck to sing into the mic – his jaw, larynx and general upper body was tense as a result.

Posture First, Music Second.

I spoke with Markey about how he was sitting but he didn’t seem to have a strong physical awareness when we discussed areas of the body.

So, with his agreement, I took a picture of him (on his iPhone) so he could see how he looked.

He hadn’t realised that he was quite so slouched, nor that his neck was stretched so far forward.

As we discussed the vital aspects of playing such as feet, legs and arms/hands in relation to the piano, it became clear that Markey had seen singing and playing in a far more complicated way than he needed to.

It was time to simplify his singing.

Learning from Watching the Pros

Since the photo worked so well, I had him watch film footage of singer/pianists with upright and “free” postures (Rachelle Ferrell, Ray Charles, Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder to name a few).

Markey then explored some core strengthening exercises on the floor such as breathing out into a pelvic thrust.

I encouraged him to focus on stretching out his arms as he played.

This gave him a sense of being “anchored” so that he could enjoy a more “fluid” neck, an open throat and a looser jaw.

We worked on this using various pieces he was adding to his repertoire and supported the work with exercises to increase his awareness of placing his higher tones – sirening and phonetic shapes

Manage Your Body

An instrument should be viewed and approached by the singer as an extension of the body.
It’s easy to see this in terms of a guitar which can be hugged or moved with a more mobile approach.

Yet, this idea of an “extension” applies also to the piano which is an anchor for legs and arms to reach and pull to and from.

This alteration in managing the body increases the awareness of the immediate environment and usually improves a singer’s relationship with their band, the microphone and even their audience!

After six months Markey has really improved his posture now and has a lot more sense of how his body works

-Rachel