In the ‘3 + 1’ map I set out how all vocal technique has to be relevant to the Breathing system, Vibrating source, Resonating system, or inner life of the singer. The one aspect that affects all of these is how we ALIGN ourselves.
‘Processes’, not ‘positions’
Some singers and teachers talk about this in terms of ‘posture’ or ‘alignment’, but I am not so keen on those words. ‘Posture’ and ‘alignment’ are nouns; those words can suggest that the singer must find a specific body position that is supposed to be good for singing. But if we try to do that, we end up locking muscles that almost certainly need to be moveable and flexible when we are singing. So we need to find not body ‘positions’ for singing, but useful body ‘processes’. To help us keep this in mind, we can change our vocabulary, to constantly remind ourselves of the dynamic, fluid nature of singing. So, we are going to use a verb, and talk about ALIGNING. We must always be on the move in singing.
Why is it important to align well?
In a moment, we’re going to look at the practical steps of how to align well, but first, here is why ALIGNING well is perhaps more important than any other single aspect of singing (and that means even more important than how we breathe for singing!). ALIGNING well improves:
- how we breathe for singing, including how we manage our ribs, diaphragm and abdominal muscles (the Breathing system)
- how freely we can move and vibrate our vocal folds, and access our full range of pitch and volume (Vibrating source)
- how effectively we can manipulate our resonators, and create rich, powerful and varied vocal sounds (the Resonating system)
- how free and balanced we are emotionally and psychologically, including how alert and aware we are (the inner life)
Aligning for Breathing
If our feet are not pointing forwards, our knees are locked, our pelvis is pushed forward, our lower back is curved too far inwards, our upper chest is pushed outwards, or our shoulder blades are pulled towards each other, we cannot manage the breathing system at maximum efficiency for singing.
Aligning for freeing the Vibrating source
If the back of our neck is tight, our head is pushed forwards, our shoulders are tight, our tongue, jaw or lips are tight, then muscles acting on the larynx (‘voice box’) interfere with the easy operation of the vocal folds, the point at which the ‘raw signal’ of the voice is created.
Aligning for the Resonating system
If the back of our neck is tight, our head is pushed forwards, or our jaw, tongue, or lips are tight, then we compromise the flexibility of our resonating system.
Aligning for inner life
If any of the tensions or physical inefficiencies so far mentioned are present, or we are locking muscles in any part of the body, these behaviours that we are being negatively affected by our mental-emotional state. A singer who is anxious or tense, distracted or scattered, too narrowly focussed and unaware of key muscles or sensory feedback, too ‘switched off’ or too ‘revved up’ will find their muscles will react in ways that prevent free singing. And just as inner states affect our bodies, unskilful physical aligning can also help create unhelpful emotions and thoughts, which then keep the muscles from working well from singing. It can be a vicious circle.
Steps for aligning well for singing
To align well, we must work from the ground upwards, starting with the feet. Otherwise, we have no chance of aligning the higher parts of the body well, especially the neck/head. I have given these 8 steps rhyming phrases to help with memorising them:
- Step 1 – Neat feet
- Step 2 – Ease in the knees
- Step 3 – Elvis pelvis
- Step 4 – Unpack the back
- Step 5 – Shoulder tip over hip
- Step 6 – Check the neck
- Step 7 – Jaw to the floor
- Step 8 – ‘Un-grip’ the lip
- Step 9 – ‘Un-bung’ the tongue
- Step 10 – Maintain the brain
Step 1 – ‘Neat feet’
Keep the feet about hip-width apart, and point them forwards.
If just one foot is slightly turned outwards, the pelvis can twist slightly; if both feet turn outwards, the pelvis pushes too far forwards, the base of the spine comes under unnecessary pressure, and the abdominal (and ‘core’) muscles don’t work well for breathing. This creates other problems too: to counter-balance the forward pelvis, the shoulders may push back behind the hip line (further compromising breathing), and the head then reaches forward, introducing awkward muscle tension in the neck that compromises both the function of the larynx (Vibrating source) and Resonating systems. And that’s all because of not pointing the feet forwards!
To develop greater sensory awareness of what our feet are doing, it can be useful to practise this with our shoes off. It gives us a better feeling of connection with the ground. It also means that our feet stay flat, rather than the heels being raised. If the heels are higher (as with some shoes), it makes it more difficult to align knees, pelvis, back and neck (steps 2, 3, 4 and 5). Singers who are working on a raked (sloping) theatre stage need to counter the angle of the stage to make sure they are still aligning well.
We must keep checking the direction we point our feet, as unconscious habit may mean we turn our feet outwards again without realising it. When we point our feet forwards, they may feel like they are turned inwards. We mustn’t be put off by this. We can notice if pointing our feet forwards helps release tension in the knees, groin, pelvis, back or neck. Get the feet right, and we can start working our way up the body. Neat feet!
Step 2 – ‘Ease in the knees’
Keep the knees flexible, never locking them.
When standing, some of us lock our knees through habit – sometimes just when we’re singing, and sometimes we have acquired the habit from another part of our lives and then continue doing it when we sing. It is an unconscious behaviour. So we have to get used to noticing when we are doing pushing our knees back, stiffening our legs – and then change. Flexing our knees helps us keep the pelvis, back and neck free. Ease in the knees!
Step 3 – ‘Elvis pelvis’
Let the base of the spine ‘drop’, letting the pelvis slightly lower at the back and maybe slightly lift at the front.
Some of us hold a surprising amount of tension in muscles around the pelvis, in the groin or buttocks. We need to relax these muscles in order to be able to use our abdominal muscles (just above the pelvis) for breathing, and to be able to relax the back muscles enough that our ribs can expand well for singer’s breathing. The singer Elvis Presley was well known to move his pelvis very freely when singing – I suspect that contributed to his free, laid back voice! When we drop the pelvis at the back, it’s important not to tilt our upper body backwards which would pull our shoulders behind the line of our hips (see Step 5).
A useful exercise for relaxing all the muscles in the area of the pelvis is to lie on our back on the floor, with our thighs vertical, and our calves resting horizontally on a chair for at least 10 minutes; it can take that long before habitual muscle tension in the buttocks and groin is released. Then we can try the first 3 steps again: 1) neat feet, 2) ease in the knees, 3) Elvis pelvis.
Step 4 – Unpack the back (vertically and horizontally)
Let the middle of the back widen on breathing in, letting the bottom of the spine drop, and the top of the back gently rise, stretching the whole spine downwards and upwards simultaneously.
One of the first things we need to notice here is how important breathing is to make any work on the back successful. When stretching open the spine, and widening the middle of the back, we should find ourselves naturally inhaling; it can also help to imagine we are inflating small balloons underneath and behind our armpits. We need to stay aware of steps 1, 2 and 3 – what we are doing with feet, knees and pelvis. For example, whilst concentrating on our back, we may have unconsciously let our feet turn outwards again. The work of aligning is a dynamic process; keep everything flexible and mobile, keep feet, knees and pelvis in play while experimenting with the back, and let the breath continue to move easily in and out, never holding the air.
Notice that we are not trying to make sounds yet. The vocal instrument uses quite a lot of our body, not just the vocal folds in the throat. If we can get more of the body functioning more efficiently, we’re effectively ‘assembling’ the instrument properly in readiness for singing. We can’t play a clarinet until we’ve slotted all the parts together and lined them up properly – the same is true for the voice. It’s tempting to start trying to sing at this point, and see how the Aligning work might improve our singing. Well, it’s certainly possible that the work so far may have a positive impact on how easily we can sing. But we have a little way to go yet before we will necessarily see a big change in the voice. Step 4 has started us thinking about how we breathe. The chapter on the full details of Breathing for singing will come a little later. We’re going to find it useful to focus on the relationship between Aligning and Breathing for a while. Patience and attention to detail at this stage is going to pay off hugely later on. Don’t rush this stage of the work! I probably spend more time working on Aligning and Breathing than any other topics with students – even with the students who are making a living from their singing!
For now, we need to patiently practise taking the first four steps: 1) neat feet, 2) ease in the knees, 3) Elvis pelvis, 4) unpack the back.
Step 5 – Shoulder tip above the hip
Keeping feet, knees, pelvis and back in the right relationship, tilt the torso until the tips of the shoulders are sitting vertically above the hip.
The upper body must not be tilted backwards in such a way that the tips of the shoulders end up behind the line of the hip. Otherwise, the shoulders begin to lock. As a result, for breathing, we can’t fully open our ribs, or get full access to abdominal muscles for supporting the breathing process needed for singing; also, muscles in the neck area tend to tighten, and the head pushes forward, which compromises function of both Vibrating and the Resonating system. So badly managed shoulders affect Breathing, Vibrating and Resonating, the 3 physical components in the ‘3 + 1’ map.
When working out what to do with our shoulders, we mustn’t curl them forwards (closing up the chest and restricting lungs), and we mustn’t let the ‘tail’ and pelvis lift at the back. Shoulders, back and pelvis need to be able to move independently of each other. Remember, breathing freely will help us align successfully. Gentle rotations of the shoulders can help release tension from them; it might also be worth getting them massaged.
As we experiment with aligning, we may feel tempted to check ourselves by standing sideways in front of a full-length mirror. The problem with doing this is that we twist everything and misalign ourselves. When using a mirror, we must always face it; with practice we will learn to see the difference between locked alignment, and aligning well. Ultimately, we can’t perform in front of a mirror, so we need to learn what good aligning feels like.
So, working from the ground up, remember 1) neat feet, 2) ease in the knees, 3) Elvis pelvis, 4) unpack the back, and 5) shoulder tip above the hip.
Step 6 – Check the neck
Lengthen the back of the neck, keeping the ears above the shoulders (drawing the head back if necessary), and keeping the chin level (neither lifting it up or digging it downwards to the chest), looking straight ahead.
How we align the neck / head is extremely important. We’re therefore going to look at this now in a fair amount of detail. The raw sound signal is created with vocal folds inside the larynx (the ‘voice box’). They need to be able to vibrate freely as soon as we send air through. And they need to be able to stretch to different lengths instantly so that we can change pitch, and reach our higher notes. If the neck muscles are even slightly tense or out of place, the freedom in the vocal fold action (Vibrating) is limited significantly. The resonating system consists of the airway above the larynx, and the mouth itself (with all its moveable parts) – it’s responsible for much of the quality and ‘colour’ of the sounds we produce. If the neck muscles are even slightly tense or out of place, the airway narrows and becomes shorter, and the back walls of the inside of the mouth narrow as well – so the resonating space becomes much smaller and less versatile in the sounds it can emit. Remember, even small adjustments of just a few millimetres in the neck make a big difference to freedom of Vibrating (vocal folds) and the Resonating system. Precision work is needed here; also our movements must be smooth, with no sudden jerks, or the muscles tend to lock. And we can free up the neck only if we have properly worked on steps 1 to 5 (feet up to shoulders).
Even when we have been successful with steps 1 to 5, there’s still a reasonable chance that we may feel as though we are tilted too far forwards, with our head tilted slightly down towards our chest. This demonstrates that our habit up until now has been to have the shoulders and back tilted behind the hip line so the head had to tilt to compensate and look forwards because we were misaligning. So this new way of aligning may feel unfamiliar, and unstable; we may even try to feel more stable by curling our toes (‘gripping’ the floor), or tightening groin and buttock muscles (don’t!). Aligning the head / neck correctly may feel wrong at first. F.M. Alexander, the creator of Alexander Technique, discovered that when we are trying to make changes to restore full functionality for the voice, the new muscular patterns that are right could well feel wrong to begin with, because the brain receives unfamiliar sensory feedback that it doesn’t recognise. Ironically, the old, less efficient muscular patterns may well feel right, simply because they’re the familiar, ‘programmed’ muscular habits.
Another reason we could still think we are aligning incorrectly is eye position. When our neck / head is misaligned (e.g. the back of it is too tight, and the chin is slightly lifted), our eyes drop in relation to our skull, in order that we can still look ahead. When we align head / neck correctly, our eyes stay in the same relative position, so end up looking downwards, making us think we are incorrectly aligning our head or even our whole body. Actually, once we are aligning our whole body correctly, all we have to do is re-adjust the eyes so they look straight outwards.
If we have done steps 1 to 5, we should be able to move our head to ‘float’ above the shoulders rather than being pushed forward of them; some people find it helpful to imagine that their spine and back of the neck are being pulled up like a puppet on a piece of string. When finding the new head position, above the shoulders, it is tempting to throw the upper body backwards, sending the shoulders back behind the hip line again; we must make sure we make the pelvis independent of the back and shoulders, and the back and shoulders independent of the neck / head.
If we are finding this difficult, there is a useful exercise I call ‘Book on the wall’. Stand with your back against a wall. Slide a little way down it, so that the feet are further from the wall. Now the lower back can be pressed into the wall. Put a paperback book against the wall, behind the head, and hold it there by pressing with the back of the head. This gives an approximate feeling of how the abdominal muscles, back and neck should feel when we are aligning well. Coming away from the wall, we can aim to align in a similar way. The head may well feel it is in the ‘wrong’ place to begin with, but the muscles can learn the new patterns, with patient repetition.
Now it’s not that we can’t create a ’note in the throat’ when our neck muscles are used inefficiently; and we can even manipulate our resonating system to a certain extent. But the freedom of the voice, its pitch and colour range, its power, and its stamina are impaired by poor alignment. If we’re using a microphone, we can disguise some of the weaknesses in our vocal output – the volume can be created by the equipment instead of our own voice, and the aspects of the tonal quality can be re-engineered for effect (e.g. giving more body, bass, or treble to the sound). But we still can’t be as expressive with our own voice, pitch range is limited, and we are constantly putting our vocal folds at risk and almost certainly shortening their working life (see chapter on ‘Health and Hygiene’).
If we use a microphone (on a stand, or hand held), we need to make sure that we don’t reach our chin towards it, or lock the back of the neck. Playing a guitar(or keyboard) while singing has its challenges; the chest must be open, and the back wide and long, and again, the back of the neck must be well aligned with the rest of the back; the back of the pelvis must still be dropped, whether we are standing or seated; and a guitar strap around the neck can bring unwanted tensions into neck and shoulders. Dance and stage movement must take account of the singer’s need to align in ways that look after the voice and follow the rules of what a healthy voice needs.
Even if we do Steps 1 to 5, and then gently work to align the neck, the neck won’t always do immediately what we want it to. That’s because most of us hold quite a lot of tension in our neck and shoulder area. This needs to be released first.
PLEASE NOTE: All the neck and shoulder stretches and exercises must be done gently and with care. It is not good to try and hurry change, or ‘bully’ the muscles into submission. These are exercises that I have found helpful for myself, and that I have offered to students in my teaching studio. Anybody who chooses to try them is wholly and solely responsible for whether or how they use the exercises, and all resulting outcomes.
For myself, I find it helpful to do the exercises in the specific order I have written down here.
Shoulder easing: Bring the left arm up across the body at shoulder height. Bend and bring the right arm up outside the left, to pull the left arm closer into the body. Breathe in; feel the shoulders stretching at the back. Now let the arms drop to the sides. Switch over, to do the exercise the other way around.
Neck flexion: Gently drop the head and chin towards the chest. Feel the back of the neck gently stretching. Wrap the hands around the top of the head, clasping the fingers together; point the elbows towards the floor; feel the weight of the arms gently pull the back of the neck open. Do this for only 2 or 3 seconds. Then take the hands away from the head, and slowly return to upright. NB It’s good to balance flexion exercises with extensions (see later).
Head retraction: Many people habitually tighten the back of the neck, or push the head forwards. The head should ideally sit above the shoulders, with the back of the neck long and loose. We need to retrain the muscles to get used to this, and the best way to do this is to temporarily draw the head behind the shoulder line. In this exercise, never lift the chin. Lengthen the back of the neck as much as possible, at the same time as pulling it behind the shoulder line. Feel muscles in the upper back and between the shoulder blades pull. Hold this position for 3 to 4 seconds. Then, most importantly, let it go – move gently to loosen up. Then retract again for 3 or 4 seconds, and let go and loosen again; do this several times. This exercise can produce a bit of an ache in the back, and we’ll probably feel the pull deeper in the back each time. This helps us release long-held tensions and return the shoulder-neck area to the functionality we need for singing. NB It’s good to balance retraction exercises with extensions (see later).
Side of neck: First, retract the head as in the previous exercise. Bring the left hand over the top of the head, and use it to pull the head gently to the left. Keep the retraction – that’s very important. Just gently pull – again, feel all sorts of muscles in the neck, shoulders and between the shoulder blades working during this. Slowly and gently are the key words here. And don’t try to pull too far; and angle of 5-10 degrees is fine. After 3 or 4 seconds, let everything go and loosen up. Then retract again, this time bringing the right hand over the head to stretch the opposite side.
Make sure that a) the breathing cycle continues throughout the exercises, b) the shoulders stay as loose and low as possible, c) everything is done slowly and gently, without pulling very far in any direction, d) there is time for loosening and resting in between each maneouvre, e) each exercise is done only a few times. Don’t overdo anything – ‘little and often’ is best, rather than trying to do a lot in one session. This is about developing greater sensory awareness of these muscle groups and gradually retraining them over a number of weeks.
Neck extension: After doing flexion and retraction exercises, we need to counter-balance these with an extension exercise. This means gently floating the chin slowly and calmly upwards, shortening the neck, until we are looking at the ceiling – just for 2 to 3 seconds.
‘Prayer’ exercise: The final exercise for now is to see if we can open up right across the upper back, easing the trapezius muscle. Bring the palms together in front of the face; bring the elbows together too; look straight ahead. Very slowly float the pressed palms up and back over the top of the head, still keeping the elbows together. Keep breathing. Hold the hands above the head for about 5 seconds. Then let slowly bring the hands down and then drop them to the sides, with the arms hanging loose.
Although we haven’t learned about breathing or making sound yet, or how to work the jaw, tongue and lips, we may want to experiment now with a little bit of singing (nothing too dramatic or demanding!). We might notice two things. First, vocalising may feel a bit freer and the sound may be a little fuller or richer; second, the act of making sound may trigger old habits, or we may find ourselves pulling away from the new way of aligning back into old, tighter muscular patterns. It’s early days, and patience will be rewarded eventually.
Aligning well starts at ground level and works upwards: 1) neat feet, 2) ease in the knees, 3) Elvis pelvis, 4) unpack the back, 5) shoulder tip above the hip, 6) check the neck.
Step 7 – Jaw to the floor
This is not about forcing the jaw down, or pushing it open, but simply about softening the muscles in the side of the face, and making sure that you are not ‘holding’ or stiffening it. It should be loose and ready to move if needed.
Let the back of the lower jaw (mandible) drop slightly, as if just beginning the first part of a yawn. The gap between the teeth at the front can be just 1cm or less, unless the pitch is so high that the vowel must be modified because of resonance (see article on resonance and jaw adjustment).
With so much concentration on the aligning work, we may find that we have been holding our jaw muscles stiffly. It’s time to loosen them. A tight jaw inhibits freedom of movement for the resonators; and tension underneath the jaw translates down onto the larynx, inhibiting the action of Vibrating.
Other methods for aligning the jaw well are a) holding a pencil end gently between the front teeth, or b) beginning to curl the bottom lip over the bottom teeth (which gently loosens the jaw slightly down and back). To loosen the biting muscles (masseter) in the side of the face, we can a) lightly massage the jaw muscles with the tips of our fingers, or b) gently pull the lower teeth down with a middle and index fingers, feeling the side of face stretch a little.
So the basic set up for assembling the vocal instrument is: 1) neat feet, 2) ease in the knees, 3) Elvis pelvis, 4) unpack the back, 5) shoulder tip above the hip, 6) check the neck, 7) explore the jaw.
Steps 8 and 9 – ‘Un-grip’ the lip, ‘Un-bung’ the tongue
These two steps are natural partners of step 7, and free in the jaw. Everything must be loose and mobile. Nothing must be locked or held. Ron Morris, the authority on the Accent Method and singing is fond of reminding singers, “All singing is movement.” The tongue must never be in one position, it needs to move constantly in order to articulate vowels and consonants, and to help shape the resonating space according to the vowel-pitch relationship. The lips help articulate some consonants, and are also part of the resonating system, so they also need to be able to move all the time. There is no such thing as a static ‘position’ for singing.
Aligning and refining
It is always worth revisiting ALIGNING, wherever we have got to in our singing development. It is important that we keep refining how well we align, as this is fundamental to vocal freedom and efficiency, expressive potential and vocal health. How we align affects all the physical elements of the ‘3 + 1’ Map, and can benefit a singer without any other vocal knowledge. In ALIGNING, we can include not just feet, legs, pelvis, spine, shoulders, neck and head, but the some of the motor work of jaw, and even tongue freedom, and facial muscles (which will be visited in ‘D’ and ‘E’). We can slowly add sounds (vegetative, primal or spoken), middle notes, and short musical phrases, always checking the integrity of our ALIGNING process.
Experimentation is integral to learning, and discovering different ways to run our muscles and coordinate them. We also have to be prepared to return patiently to these manoeuvres many, many times, in order to programme the brain-muscle relationship into good habits. The new habits have to become our ‘default setting’. This way, when we step from ordinary life into our singing mode, we can feel that we are stepping into a familiar way of being in our bodies. Ideally, singing shouldn’t feel any different from our normal way of being in our bodies, because we should be training our bodies to function well, like a singer’s, at all times.
This has important implications for how to organise our learning. If we sing for a fraction of our waking hours, then the rest of the time, we may be aligning, breathing or vocalising inefficiently. The muscles will not learn the new moves if in most of our non-singing time we are using and reinforcing the old moves. Practice makes permanent, which means that whatever we repeat enough times, our body-brain will learn and automate, so we had better make sure we are practising the right moves. Our learning for singing will accelerate enormously if we think about our aligning and breathing when we go about our daily business, standing in a queue, sitting at our desk, doing the washing up, chatting with others, and so on.
A is for ALIGNING. A is also for AWARENESS – this principle is at the heart of aligning successfully. If we are not aware of what we are doing, we cannot control muscular behaviour or reliably modify it towards what we want for singing. We have to learn to ‘read’ our body, and the sensory feedback that we get from it. Our subtle AWARENESS of how we are ALIGNING can improve by not vocalising at this stage. If we sang too soon, we would simply focus on the sound, rather than the precision and quality of our muscular patterns, and what we need to feel when we are singing.
Actually, the principle of AWARENESS might be summed up as a final step in Aligning …
Step 8 – Maintain the brain
Later in this book (the chapter on ‘Feeling’), we’ll explore in some detail the psychology of learning, singing and performing, and try some exercises for focusing the mind on the task at hand, and clearing it of distracting thoughts. A mind that is preoccupied with worries, ambitions, theories or questions is not properly available for the clear-headed, aware work of singing and subtle and rapid muscle coordination. A true master singer learns, above all else, to master their own mind and emotions. Good aligning consists of: 1) neat feet, 2) ease in the knees, 3) Elvis pelvis, 4) track the back, 5) shoulder tip above the hip, 6) check the neck, 7) jaw to the floor, 8) ‘un-grip’ the lip, 9) ‘un-bung’ the tongue, 10) maintain the brain, underpinned by principles of keeping everything free and mobile, and continuing to breathe.
Shorthand methods for remembering technique – beware imagery
As we work through this Alphabet Map of singing, we’re going to find that there are many muscle behaviours that have to be mastered. There are so many, and they have to be so well coordinated, that it is simply not possible to run them all simultaneously with a consciously attentive mind. They have to become reliably synchronised and automatic, which will come through particular learning methods and practice routines that I will talk about later on in this course. I believe that we become more assured in our technique, and able to diagnose and correct our own singing problems, when we have a clear and detailed understand of each element involved. But then we have to find ways to summarise that information so it becomes manageable and useful in the moment-by-moment process of actual singing.
Some singers and teachers use images and metaphors to try to convey what a singer needs to do. They suggest ideas like ‘imagine you are singing out of the top of your head’, or ‘breathe through your feet’. Personally, I have never found such teaching methods helpful. Students are – quite reasonably – often baffled by such instructions. There is, after all, no basis in biology, vocal science or acoustics, for such ideas. The student feels stupid for not being to do what the teacher wants, or even understand it, and the teacher thinks that the student is simply an inadequate student or someone with no real potential to be a singer. However, once we understand in detail what is technically required, and what it should feel like, then we can select an image that helps us remember that technical process and sensory experience.
So, in the case of Aligning, we have learned about 8 steps. That’s too many to think about all at once. But what if we think about breathing in with a great sense of wellbeing, drawing our spine to its full length, opening our back, and imagining that we are playing a queen or king in a Shakespeare play? Physically and mentally, we adopt a ‘noble attitude’, what 18th century Italian singer teachers called ‘una nobile attitudine’. Assuming this ‘noble attitude’ and sense of ‘wellbeing’ as we breathe in (without lifting the chin!), and sustaining it when we make sound, should approximate the Aligning behaviour described in this article. This Italian phrase is often translated as ‘noble posture’; but notice the language, the suggestion this is a fixed ‘position’. I prefer ‘attitude’ because it is more dynamic, and includes the mind as well as the body.
In the ‘Alphabet’ map of singing, A is for ALIGNING and AWARENESS.
ALIGNING affects everything in the ‘3 + 1’ map: Breathing, Vibrating, Resonating and Thinking/Feeling. It uses 8 steps:
- Neat feet
- Ease in the knees
- Elvis pelvis
- Unpack the back
- Shoulder tip above the hip
- Check the neck
- Jaw to the floor
- ‘Un-grip’ the lip
- ‘Un-bung’ the tongue
- Maintain the brain
- Notice the importance of the words ‘gently’, ‘slowly’, and ‘patiently’, ‘free’, ‘loose’ and ‘mobile’.
- To free up muscles and align well, we need to keep breathing freely all the time, without holding air.
- Aligning is a process, not a position.
- Experimentation and multiple repetitions (hundreds or even thousands) of the correct moves are required for programming new good habits.
- Vocalising too soon can prevent the development of greater sensory awareness and how to align well.
- AWARENESS is a fundamental tool for learning and change.
- Look after the vocal folds – use good neck and jaw habits, and keep them free and loose at all times.
- Avoid using vague imagery to describe singing technique.
- Remember the ‘noble attitude’ and sense of wellbeing.