When a student first begins to study in the area of vocal music they must first set their priorities. Many are surprised to find out that the first priority is not the voice. It is not that the voice is not important, it is important. But the infrastructure supporting the voice is very important. If the infrastructure is weak or of insufficient support, much harm can come to the instrument. This is why posture is important for singing. It is the supporting infrastructure of the voice.
We have just stated that posture provides the structure on which the vocal mechanism relies. The mechanism of the voice is made up of a source of power, the producer and the amplifiers.
The source of power is the breath. The air must be forced from the lungs through the trachea and flow through the larynx, where the sound is produced. The sound is then amplified by the resonators, the pharynx, the mouth and nasal cavities. If these are not properly aligned the best production of the voice cannot be attained. This is where posture comes into play.
Let’s begin with the foundation. The breath provides the power to produce the voice. Sound is produced by the compression and decompression of air waves impressed upon our eardrums. Without a consistent flow of air power from the power source we cannot hope to bet a good vocal production.
Many suppose the diaphragm to be the source of power to force the air out of the lungs. Though the diaphragm is important, it is not the producer of the power that forces the air out of the lungs. Its role is to infuse the lungs with air, inhale the air, and then regulate its outward flow, exhalation. Because of its structure it lacks the ability to force air out of the lungs. Any muscle in its relaxed position is in its longest state. As it flexes, it shortens its station. When the diaphragm is relaxed it is in a domed shape. In its flexed position it shortens into a flattened form. In this position it provides a suction for the lungs to draw air in. It provides a regulatory role by gradually releasing tension and controlling the flow of air out of the lungs. The out flow is brought about by the flexing of the intercostal muscles when singing or speaking.
This is where posture plays a role. All muscles are in some way connected to the skeleton of the body. The leverage of the muscle will be affected for good or bad depending on the posture of the skeleton. Good leverage means good production. Weak leverage, weak production.
The same is true in singing, and especially in the power supply. Poor posture puts the muscle in a less than optimal position. Therefore, the production will not be at its best. With the energy supply weakened other processes will be overloaded. If they are overloaded they will not operate at their best. That is when problems develop.
Almost all singers with poor posture develop other vocal problems. So, it is of utmost importance to get the posture right.
So, how do you determine if you have correct posture for your singing? First we need to determine what good posture is in normal situations. The best way that I have found to do that is to lie on your back on the floor. Lie on your back with your heels on the floor. Hands should be at your side, your shoulder blades flat on the floor. Your head should be tilted slightly and lying on the floor.
Relax in this position and concentrate on how your body parts relate to one another. This is a position that we are rarely in, even when we sleep. So take five or ten minutes to find out how it feels with all parts of your body in sinc. The next step to translate that to singing posture is to stand up. To get things in line, if you can, stand with your back against a wall. Depending on your body build, you may not be able to put your heels against the wall. But do place your heels as close to the wall as you comfortably can.
Your head, shoulder blades and hands should be against the wall as they were against the floor. Now, hold this position for five or ten minutes and concentrate on how it feels. You will not be able to maintain this position at all times but it is a good starting position. Return to it from time to time just to keep things in their proper relationship.
In this position you will find your chest lifted with your shoulders erect and back. This posture will keep your shoulder and chest muscles from heaving when you inhale. It will also keep your chest from sinking when you exhale.
In this position your diaphragm will function at its best when you inhale. It will also be set to regulate the outflow as you exhale. With this posture the abdominal muscles can be at their prime as they supply the force to push the air. The power supply of the abdomen will be consistent and controlled.
To learn more about the diaphragm and how it works see the video at this link. https://youtu.be/hp-gCvW8PRY
To be able to sing we must adjust our breathing. Normally we take about ten to twelve breaths a minute. In singing we may only take six to eight breaths per minute, depending on the song. So, we must make some adjustment in our breathing.
At the outset we know that we shall have to take deeper breaths. Since singing prolongs the phonation of the word we shall need more air. Most people in this situation respond by raising the shoulders and lifting the chest. This is not the best means to get more air into our lungs. Lifting the chest and shoulders does not lower the diaphragm. So we end up filling the tops of our lungs. But if we inhale that breath by flexing our diaphragm we shall get much more air in and available for singing.
So, the shoulders should remain erect, as if against the wall. Make your chest should feel like it is raised and locked in place.
How are we going to develop the feeling of inhaling deeply to fill our lungs to capacity? One of the ways that I find helpful is to force myself to yawn. When you yawn you automatically inhale. When you inhale through a yawn you will feel your abdomen expand. It does it automatically. The way to develop this technique is to make yourself yawn a lot and get to know what it feels like. Then as you learn you will be able to do it whenever you desire.
This is a good thing because as you develop your voice and singing you will find the same muscles of the yawn will affect the extension of your range. Get an early start.
To begin to develop control over our breathing do this exercise. If you have one, use a metronome. If not, just think of one count per second. Inhale over 3 beats. Then do a hiss sound (ssss) for 10 beats. Do this five times. As you have opportunity you can increase the (sssss) to 12 seconds and the 15 seconds. After a while you will be able to extend it even longer.
Another exercise is the “yawn” that I mentioned above. Yawning will cause you to take very deep breaths. If you can make yourself yawn five times and get that feeling in you mind, you will see much improvement. As you progress try to keep that yawn feeling even as you exhale or as you sing. You will soon find yourself singing longer phrases without a breath.
Gaining control of your breath will be a big step in gaining control of your voice. When you get to that point you will begin to see improvements in your singing like never before. And it will become much more enjoyable to you.
I hope that you are beginning to see the importance of good posture in singing correctly. If you do not learn the way to use your vocal instrument, you will be damaging it instead of building it. Too many enthusiastic musicians start with a natural talent but do not train it properly. I have known of many who have lasted for a while and then have lost their voice through misuse. They did not build their instrument wisely.
I encourage you to use wisdom as you begin to develop your voice. We shall be sharing wisdom that I have gained over 50+ years of singing. We shall give you the tools and the direction to help you enjoy your singing and share it with others.