We singers are always being told to stand up straight, but for some people this posture can feel unnatural, especially for those who have a desk-bound existence.
However, it’s a bit more subtle than just doing an impression of a Buckingham Palace guard! And in fact, if we tighten too much into a ‘good posture’ this can hinder our breath.
I wrote in my last blog about not taking in big breaths to reach the end of a phrase or sustain a held note. Posture is the key to making the lesser, more relaxed breath last on the exhale.
There are two key elements here: control of the sternum (breastbone) and control of the diaphragm.
Firstly, the sternum; this is the large, flat bone that joins your ribs together at the front (cue Tarzan, chest-beating call). If you take in a breath and let the sternum collapse down as you breathe out (I call this ‘teenage posture’ – sorry kids- see Kevin and Perry for reference 😂) the air leaves your lungs really quickly.
However, if we do the opposite and lift up through the sternum, keeping the ribcage position stable as we breathe out, we can make the air last longer – see opera singers, ballerinas, dressage riders and athletes for reference; this posture makes our breathing easier and more efficient, without the need for huge lungfulls of air, so is used in all kinds of activities.
There is then less pressure on the vocal cords as we sing, so they can do what they need more easily to produce the sounds we want.
Equally, our head position also matters, as pulling up or pushing down can affect the larynx, and the flow of air.
One of the most common breathing and postural faults is to raise the shoulders on the inhale. Try this now – if you bring your shoulders up towards your ears, you will feel the muscles in your neck tighten. This can put unnecessary tension into the throat around the vocal cords, and can cause sharpness (unwanted raising of pitch) in the singing voice.
Start by having a look at your favourite singers and see what they do; some, like Jose Carreras in the header image above, are very obviously maintaining ribcage stability; others, like Dusty, are a bit more subtle. Here are a few….
So, in conclusion, maintaining stability in the ribcage, especially the sternum, head and shoulders, can help us be more comfortable using less air, which in turn frees up the voice.
In my next blog I will discuss the part the all-elusive diaphragm plays in singing – and it’s not what you might think. For anyone who has ever been told to, “sing with a strong diaphragm!” or even, “sing from the diaphragm”, this is a must-read!
For more info and practical application of the techniques and ideas discussed in this blog, please contact me or visit http://www.fionawallace.com
©️Fiona Wallace 2018