Often our knee jerk reaction is to ‘fix’ the problem, but of course there is an irony here- you can’t force yourself to relax. You can only allow yourself to let go. Awareness is the first and most important step. The next step is the willingness and patience to go with the process.
Often we learn when we stop trying so hard. I truly believe that learning to sing is really unlearning all of those unhelpful habits we’ve adopted. None of us came into this word all hunched up and ‘wearing our shoulders as earrings’ (as my Pilates teacher once observed!)
If you look at babies, you’ll see that they breathe freely into their abdominal area, and engage these muscles when they cry. Let’s face it, your average baby doesn’t have problems with projecting their voice!
Perhaps its our western obsession with having flat stomachs, but often we hold ourselves upright and breathe shallowly into our shoulders, which is the first thing we need to unlearn.
Being suited. booted and poker faced might be necessary in the corporate world, but it can leave us alienated from our bodies and disconnected from our voices. Psychology aside, if you’re at a computer for 8+ hours a day, chances are you’re going to suffer from some muscle tension.
So, whats the answer?
In my opinion- the answer lies, in part, with movement. I don’t mean the hardcore kind of movement, where you thrash around, overriding what your body is telling you- but the gentle, mindful kind where you listen to your body. (Think yoga rather than high intensity workouts- which might be great for weight loss but not for this!)
Try this- next time you sing, try ‘unlocking’ your body. You could walk gently or perform with your arms outstretched. You could try leaning against the wall while supporting yourself with the palm of your hands. Observe if anything feels different. Is there a change in vocal tone? Do you feel more free? Try and incorporate this exploration into your singing practice.
In part 2 of this post I’m going to be featuring a wonderful artist called Kate Smith who is working in this area. She’s recently done an MA at Guildhall on this very subject and she has so much wisdom to share. I can’t wait to tell you about her work! Stay tuned guys…
Until then, keep singing (and moving!)