By Jayne Carmichael Norrie, co-authored with Phillip Brandvold
You’re on stage- singing a challenging piece that requires you to stretch your range. You’re caught up in the moment, and in order to hit that high note, you end up moving your body into a position that is not conducive to good sound. If this sounds like you, you are not alone. The battle against bad posture is something that most singers struggle with at some point in their lives. Luckily, there is a solution- the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique is one way to ward off bad posture, and at the same time, help you be more mindful of your body.
Be Consciously Aware of Your Own Body
Although simple in theory, it takes conscious effort and practice in order to naturally implement the Alexander Technique during performance. The goal of the Alexander Technique is to help you become more knowledgeable of areas of tension in your body. The term for this is “proprioception,” which simply boils down to being consciously aware of your own body. By following the Alexander Technique, you will begin to notice, and in turn release, the tension that you hold.
While the Alexander Technique is not a “quick fix”, in the long run, it is very effective. Much like yoga or meditation, it must be practiced regularly; only then will it become second nature. Within a few months, you will begin to see your posture improve, but it will take diligence to get there. Don’t let that scare you- although discipline is required, it is easy to start. There are just a few simple steps to follow in order to begin properly practicing this discipline.
Step 1: Stay Grounded
First, you must start from your feet. When you are grounded, with both feet flat on the ground, you will feel more stable and in control of your body. This in turn will help you avoid tensing up your back or abdominal muscles, and allow you to remain standing. Tension, especially in the abdomen and back, is the enemy of quality tone and good posture.
Step 2 and 3: Bend Your Knees and Align Them with Your Shoulders and Earlobes
The second and third steps in the Alexander Technique work hand in hand together. When singing, your knees should be slightly bent, not locked. They should also be in line with your shoulders and earlobes. Bent knees will allow you to remain relaxed, and the vertical alignment of your knees, shoulders, and earlobes will make sure your spine is straight and your diaphragm has plenty of room to move. It also avoids a lot of back pain. If you’re not sure if your knees are bent, simply bounce up and down a little bit without moving your feet from the ground, and your body will naturally find a comfortable spot.
Step 4: Keep Your Head Stationary
The fourth and final step in the Alexander Technique is the placement of your head. It can seem natural to move your head up when reaching for the high notes or move it down to dip into the low notes, but your head should never move when singing. Rather, it should stay stationary and relaxed. The best way to accomplish this is to pay attention to where your ear lobes are pointing. If they are pointing to your shoulders, your head is in the proper alignment with the rest of your body. But if they are pointing slightly forward, in front of your shoulders, you are most likely straining your throat as you try to reach for the high notes. This will lead to a constricted tone and afterwards, a pained throat. If your earlobes are pointing backward, your larynx is probably being constricted as you dip into the low notes, which can be painful and unhealthy.
We hope that you implement the Alexander Technique to ensure a comfortable and quality performance. By starting with your feet and aligning the rest of your body, you can train yourself to have better singing posture and prevent yourself from further neck and back pain. If you remember to plant your feet, bend your knees, and keep your head leveled, you will be well on your way to becoming a high caliber vocalist.
Have any questions about the Alexander Technique? Send me a message and I’ll be happy to give you additional tips and make sure you get the most of this technique.
I’m the Founder of Forte Music School in Aberdeen, Scotland. The Forte Music School has been a finalist for the Association of Scottish Businesswomen’s (ASB) Business of Year for three consecutive years, and I was selected as one of ’40 under 40' to watch in Aberdeen Business in 2014.
If you have any questions about singing lessons, I teach online on Savvy. Feel free to reach out to me on my Savvy profile.