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Improve singing with your posture! 3 body changes for a powerful voice

Updated: Mar 23




That's right. Only after experiencing renewed vocal freedom through my own struggles/discoveries and those of my students in the studio have I realized how "full body singing" works...


and how important it is for vocal strength and stamina!


That's right, if you want a career in singing... (paid or not!) it's imperative you look at not just how you resonate, but how you hold your body when you sing.


For some of you, though, the term posture may conjure up the WRONG idea of how we should stand straight.


In fact this is actually what got me into trouble and helped me to realize what to do about it!


I think most of us can remember singing in a choir at some point and being told to stand up tall and straight. Right? Not bad advice. That's good advice... until it's misinterpreted.

In small or big ways, I've experienced how 3 things having to do with bad posture or body misalignment can eventually hold back even the most seasoned vocalist.


Here's a little part of my journey...


I first became aware of my own misunderstanding with posture (or as I like to say body position), when my first voice teacher in college would remind me to fix my posture.

I was so eager that I overdid it.

I stood TOO straight.

Meaning, I pushed right past straight to a sway-back mess!

I popped into this stance with my lower back over-arched and my butt stuck out.

And there was even an emphasis put on how your FEET should be positioned.

(Any classically trained vocalists out there feel my pain?)


This was all very well-intentioned, (I had amazing teachers who didn't seem to catch it because I was still delivering a great tone) I just took it too far and ended up a tight, over-arched mess!

Over time, this all caused a chain reaction.

I started singing with all the muscles in my butt and lower abs just...

tight,

NOT free.

held,

NOT with motion.

effort,

NOT effortless.


YOU try singing with a tight, swayed-back butt with feet frozen to the ground. Yep.

It'll take it's toll.

Now I could get by and I actually did pretty well despite the lack of freedom.

But I realized over time that I was learning how to perform with built up tension.

And when I got tired, stressed or nervous, the body tension would get worse and then it presented in losing a few high notes from time to time or mostly a lack of stamina!


I was getting the job done, but it kinda felt like work.


On my first pro gig for instance...

I'd get done with a show or set and my body would ache a bit and my voice would just feel tired. I'd have to maybe even go on vocal rest or lay flat on the ground with my feet up between sets in order to reset my voice for the next one.


If you think about it (or if you've done any study like with the alexander technique) we were created differently. Watch a toddler. Watch how they hold their bodies. Then listen to how LOUD and chattery they can be... all day... and never lose their voice.

See my point?


There's many reasons why we get away from that perfect posture.


When thinking of improving our vocals we focus so much on resonance and vocal placement in areas like the face or mask, (all good and well), that it's really easy to lose focus on the foundations ... our breath and body.


Today I'm going to talk about the body position's effect on the voice even though the breath plays a huge support role... guess what... even the breath can be impacted negatively or positively by how we hold our bodies.


I'm going to focus on the 3 body issues that seem to come up over and over again in my studio. Most other issues can be traced back to one of these 3 that has simply caused a negative chain reaction.



#1 Jaw/Chin


Here's how it can show up:

  • Singing with your chin jutted out or pulling up.

  • Singing with chin pulled to the side.

  • Sometimes adding a clinching in the jaw.

  • *Changing notes or riffing with the jaw.


Here's how it could impact the voice:

  • Activates other neck muscles not needed in singing

  • Keeps larynx in a pulled up position rather than a healthy neutral one

  • Prevents necessary airflow (vocal cords need consistent airflow for the best function)

  • Inhibits natural space or curve in soft palate which keeps tension away from larynx

  • Leads to tongue tension


*Let me just say that these things are not necessary AT ALL to 'hit the note' or 'riff like crazy'...compare Ariana Grande and Tori Kelly. They both have great riffs but Tori has freedom in her jaw, and Ariana changes notes with coordinated jaw movement. I'm not commenting on ability or talent... I just want to point out that these things are a stylistic choice that some say makes the note changes clearer.


What do YOU think?


It seems to me that they both have super clear and strong riffs. If you were to close your eyes I'd bet they'd sound virtually the same in clarity and agility.

For a solid technique, make sure that things like this are for style or effect and that they don't become a habit.


Make sure that you don't NEED to manipulate your head, chin, or jaw to get a certain sound out.


When it becomes a CRUTCH, it is then a bad habit!

If you do choose it please use it sparingly!


#2 Lower Abs



Here's how it can show up:

  • Sway back

  • over-arched lower back

  • Tightening of the stomach

  • Tightening of glute muscles

  • A clinching feeling in pelvis area


Here's how it could impact the voice:

  • Prevents a good inhale

  • Prevents a controlled exhale

  • Prevents diaphragm from supporting

  • Inconsistent airflow (Vocal cords need this for ultimate health!)


You can see how tightness in your abdominal area, anywhere from your stomach to your glutes, can cause a chain reaction, building up to tightness eventually in your voice.


When there is a crack in the foundation, the building won't be as stable.


The way that you hold your lower abs is in partnership with your breath so it is foundational to a solid technique because it helps you support and give consistent airflow (there's that word again)! If you try to feel freedom there and even imagine an expanded lower ab you can alleviate a lot of unwanted tension.


This is why I sometimes tell my singers to sing from their lower abs and NOT their diaphragm


(For more on how this effects breathing... download my webinar, Change your breath, Change your voice here.)


#1 Head



Here's how it can show up:

  • Head jutted forward

  • Head jutted forward and slightly up

  • Shoulders hunched forward

  • Sternum sunken in

  • 'Device' Posture


Here's how it could impact the voice:

Similar to the jaw and chin...

  • Add strain caused by unnecessary neck muscles activated

  • Cause a bigger break between registers

  • Inhibits ease in head voice

  • Inhibits natural space or curve in soft palate


This really messes with the balance of the vocal registers, and the larynx.


What does this really look like?


When you're head is not aligned with your neck, spine, and body, it's hard to keep the larynx in a balanced position and this can prevent the necessary space in the soft palate that your voice needs to sing with freedom.


Consequently...

a strained head position can make it difficult to release the weight of the chest voice, hindering a seamless shift into the mix and subsequently into your head or falsetto. It may just feel like work on those ascending lines when it should feel very natural and smooth.


Did you ever think about what is in front of where your head and neck join?

The soft palate.


Next time you sing, focus on that joint, feeling movement there and see if you feel less strain or force and more ease in your voice!


Here's how all 3 could hurt your singing:

  • Weakened Breath Support and Capacity

  • Loss of resonance

  • Uncertain or wavering pitch

  • Lack of control

  • Lack of agility

  • Shortened range

  • Vocal breaks and cracks

  • Vocal fatigue and pain

  • Potential vocal cord damage



Now it's YOUR turn!


Does any of this sounds familiar?

If so...

you may feel or hear effects right away,

or the effects may be slowly building with or without you realizing...


Start to be aware of your body position.

-Start singing in front of a mirror

-Watch your performance videos

-Or just record yourself on your phone

Analyze.

?Do you jut your chin out when you sing through your break?

?Do you start tall and then slowly start slouching?

?Do you have to cock your head to the side to hit that high note?


It could be coming from places or habits that you're not even aware of!

For instance, look at things like...

-how your posture changes at the mic

-or while playing guitar or keyboard

-or in the car

-or when wearing certain shoes or costumes*

*Pro tip: When I'm getting fitted for a new costume, I make sure to take a good wide deep singers breath while they are pinning me!


Adjust!

Using what you now know about how GOOD body alignment can

reduce strain and help you sing freely and strongly,

you can target your problem areas and consistently pull them back into place.

Sometimes you can make HUGE improvements by making small physical changes.


Happy Practicing... Let me know how it goes!



Remember the body and breath are very closely connected! I encourage you to


I use a lot of the concepts and ideas from Alexander Technique in my teaching if you want to

check it out:



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Hey! I'm Karen.
I am a vocal coach
and pro singer for Disney and the Los Angeles film and tv biz... and have been prepping singers for pro level singing for over 20 years.


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