Not even close! This is about the cleverest way I could bring some education to the singing world today in the form of an April Fool’s joke.
Many of my clients that come to me after a 5-30 year hiatus from HS or collegiate training say that they know they’re not breathing right. Newbies tell me they’ve heard if they breathe right, it will help with singing. And, in all cases, they’re all breathing just fine. And typically, the ones with a training history are squeezing too much as they sing or the newbies are usually are not supporting enough (e.g. applying enough air pressure on the exhalation, that can feel like squeezing from the abs). My experience has been that the clients that believe they are not breathing “right” while singing, tend to take too much air in and are not pressurizing (releasing air slowly) on the way out. Whether they are total newbies or have a history of choral or classical training, most are taking too big of an inhale. All of my clients are singing contemporary (pop styles) music, and in general, most of those phrases are shorter and sometimes choppier to sing. I suggest that they inhale like they are going to speak. Of course, the learning in that comes from noticing how they breathe when they talk; we usually don’t pay attention to it.
Changing the setup of the inhale to be more casual can make a world of a difference in the output of sound. Tends to come out easier and they get that speech-like sound they want in their contemporary songs, rather than the tall hoot-y space of choral singing. Then there is learning the rhythmic patterns of the inhale v. the exhaled phrase they sing. Some require more air, longer time out and maybe a quicker time for a small inhale. That’s a lot of noticing and coordinating between the respiration and vocalizing muscle groups.
Posture can be important. It may be more important for some than others. It can also be relative. Our bodies are different, so find what’s best for you.
Holding certain posture positions can lead to fatigue, and sometimes specifically vocal fatigue, I typically train more around alignment of the skeleton, so that the larynx has an easier time moving in the throat column and the muscles below are well supported with balanced weight in the feet, or the seat. I let my students sit if they are more comfortable doing so. If I notice that something in their posture is hindering their sound, we'll make adjustments. Some people are more balanced and secure, less nervous, in less pain (knee problems, etc) when they sit. I’ll have them stand when we need to check lower body strength or what it will look like/feel like when they stand to sing in performance when necessary. The most common posture correction I make is getting the head farther back on top of the shoulders. Having clients stand against a door/wall with their head touching gives them a perspective of that alignment. For some, it’s quite exhausting to stand like that because their muscles have become accustomed to supporting the more shoulder and head forward position that our world’s habits have us in - driving, texting (not at the same time!), typing, reading, etc. It’s still not the first or second thing I address.
In regards to my own posture while teaching, I discovered a couple of years ago that it felt better to stand - actually helped my back and energy! I have a keyboard on a stand that can be raised and lowered. Sometimes I use a stool if I'm working through a long day, but that is my least favorite.
I’m also not at the keyboard all day. Sometimes the client and I are singing off of an app on the iPad, or we're discussing something or doing exercises and working on technique that doesn't need music... I found a short wooden stool that I love to sit on - it’s comfortable, makes it easy to sit up, or play the guitar as I often do. If I'm having a super low energy day or not feeling great, I'll lower the keyboard and sit in my comfy office swivel chair. But, I have to be careful in it, because if I sit long enough, I’ll tilt my hips and cross my legs and it’s irritating to my back.
And, (gasp!) sometimes it feels better to my body not to have "proper alignment". I might sit on my stool and lean with my elbows on my knees and explain something or listen as a student talks. I actually sing quite comfortably in this position too. Certainly I have employed “bad” posture as I’m writing songs and am hovering over hugging my guitar. I call it bad, because after an hour or so, I need to get up and stretch. Moral of the story: posture can make a difference, but it’s not going to make or break a good voice run.
Both better posture or better breathing techniques (whatever better is for you) may have been more important before I began training the throat muscles, which is the big focus in functional training. I didn’t get that in my original training as a youth, or even through grad school as an adult, with choral and classical training. Tune in next week for functional exercises for your throat muscles!
enjoy your monday!