Many people are under the impression that singing is a production of sound that comes from your vocal cords, mouth and throat. This is decidedly not entirely the case. In fact, a well-trained singer will use most of the muscles in the body using 5 specific singing positions to control the way air is used in the production of sound.
From the feet right up to the head, each region of the body plays a role in contributing to the way the voice flows from and through the body.
Learn the following postures and singing positions that encourage relaxed, controlled and sustainable sound to improve your singing voice immensely.
The position of your feet
The feet are where your foundation starts, so standing with a shoulder-width stance will create a solid base. Keep one foot slightly in front of the other for more control over your balance and stability while singing. Slightly shift your weight to the front.
You can practice this stance and get good at finding your centre of gravity by shifting your weight from front to back repeatedly. Finding a good balance in a comfortable stance provides a more natural and relaxed look and feel to your performance.
Keep a slight bend in your knees when singing to stay loose. Maintaining a slight flex in the legs will contribute to the relaxed state and prevent your body from appearing stiff.
Never lock the knees.
This leads to the whole body locking up by restricting the movement and flexibility you have in a standing position.
The hips don’t lie
It’s important that your hips fully support your torso by allowing the chest the freedom to lift before breathing. Make sure to avoid tucking your hips to the point where it’s pulling your chest towards the ground.
Adjust the hips so alleviate any tension in the lower back to find a neutral position that you’re most comfortable with when standing.
There are a multitude of muscles to work on in the torso that combine to form ideal singing positions.
Keep your back straight.
Don’t lift the shoulders.
You should lift your chest before taking a breath, expanding the muscles around the circumference of your body.
Use the abdominal, dorsal and intercostal muscles to their full capacity. This allows slow steady release of breath with the voice so you don’t tire or damage the vocal cords.
With the chest lifted high, keep the back straight and relax the shoulders. This allows you to fill up with air right to the bottom of the diaphragm. This helps you to sustain air for as long as possible.
A level head is another one of the singing positions used to control sound. The only time the head goes down is when you’re raising the pitch to a higher level. When you’re going to a higher pitch you direct the sound to the back of the upper palette. This gives you the full resonance going through your head.
The tongue should always gently touch the bottom teeth. Raise the tongue slightly more for the E vowel and slightly less for the A vowel. As you get higher in pitch, the tongue lowers towards the A position instead of the frontal E vowel.
The most important thing is constantly working on improving the support of the air by flexing the muscles in the upper abdominal region, the dorsal muscles in the back and the intercostal muscles in the side. They all play a part in being able to hold on to the air longer and longer.
Just like any art (or sport for that matter) strengthening these muscles through practice improves the control and stamina of a singer. Being healthy and physically fit improves a singer’s ability to control and sustain their voice for long periods of time.
Myths about talent and technical singing
Now that you’ve learned a little about the physical demands singing requires from your body, there are a few myths we can dispose of that have been around for years.
Myth #1: Opera singers are better off overweight
The first myth is the idea that opera singers are better singers when they’re overweight. People have carried the misconception of opera singers as being heavy set (beyond “big-boned”), which is actually a misnomer because being overweight will actually work against you. When the body is physically fit, you can sustain the air in your body that carries your voice for a lot longer and you won’t tire as fast.
In fact, compared to 20 years ago, there are more demands placed on professionals to maintain a healthy lifestyle to maintain a minimum level of fitness and health. It’s become less forgiving and more difficult to get away with having a huge body and be out of shape.
Professional opera companies, like the Metropolitan Opera House, want their soloists to not only sing exceptionally well but look good too.
Singing Myth #2: “Either you have it or you don’t”
Another myth we can lay to rest is the belief “You either got the voice, or you don’t.” Some people believe that if you don’t sound like a pop star when you start singing that you might as well pack it in and give up any professional aspirations. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Singing is an art that requires practice. People surprise themselves when they discover how to sing properly. Learning the physical aspect of controlling the voice immensely improves a person’s ability to sing. Making the decision of whether a person has a future career in music based on hearing their untrained voice is incredibly naïve and foolish.
Once a student becomes aware of how they produce sound, they end up sounding a thousand times better after they’ve been working at it a couple of years.
Those that “have it” still need to practice the same techniques to improve the quality of their voice. In most cases, those people “that have it” have already been singing at a very early age and have had years of practice in honing their skill and perfecting their voice.
Singing myth #3: The volume of voice is produced by shouting
There is an infinite number of people that think that in order to make your voice sound bigger, you open your mouth, expand your throat and perform somewhere in the realm of shouting.
The opposite is true.
You end up croaking in no time at all if you’re not supporting the air required to sing with volume. The volume of a person’s voice comes from resonance. Only when you’re properly supporting the air and allow your body to freely resonate in the chest and head can you obtain resonance.
Use the chest voice in the lower pitches and head voice in the higher pitches. When your singing has reached a high level of technical ability, your voice flows freely from bottom to top without any tension in between.
Perfect the sound of your voice
If you didn’t already know the way to Carnegie Hall, you most certainly do now.
To achieve anything worthwhile in your life, you need to direct time energy and focus. With the right guidance and the correct information, singing can become a lifelong activity and a source of joy and entertainment.
For some, it may even become a career. Practice the singing postures and singing positions that will take your voice to the next level and you will not only hear the difference in your voice but feel it too.