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Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

The concept of "support" is an imprecise way of describing the technique of freeing the larynx from the ill-effects of large-muscle wrong tension.

Unconscious and habitual movements are often counter to good vocalism, and can lead to tension of the neck and jaw. Typical culprits are:

By stabilizing these postural elements while maintaining an energized and expanded sense of physical well-being and enthusiasm, we begin to free the larynx from large muscle tension and enable the interplay of the tiny muscles that control pitch, timbre, and registration.

Posture and Alignment

All great singing is based on a stable, upright, and expanded posture, quiet but energized, basically unmoving throughout the entire range. The singer should be able to throughout the entire range without altering the stable position of head, chin, neck and ribcage.

The basic rule of thumb is: the act of changing pitch - moving from ont tone to a any other tone - should involve no visible outer movement of the head and neck. The primary exception to this prime directive is the slight lowering of the jaw which is necessary for proper modification of certain vowels as the pitch ascends.

Energized and Stable

Any movement of the large outer muscles only adds to overall tension, and inhibits the free and flexible response of the small laryngeal muscles.

When outer physical stability is achievedwith no loss of inner enthusiasm and emotional engagement, the singer often experiences a sense that the voice is "floating" on the breath. But this subjective awareness is the result, not the cause, of good singing.

No amount lf languaging ("more support!" "float the tone" "sing on the breath" support the voice on a column of air" etc etc ) will help the singer achieve a balanced and effortless vocalism unless the posture is first aligned.

"All of Me"

By "posture" I mean the entire body, from head to feet. It is a huge mistake for the teacher and student to focus only on upper body issues, and ignore the lower body as a source of "support" and energy.

The singer begins by developing an awareness of the entire spine - a flexible column o which head, ribcage, and pelvis are balanced and supported.

But in order for the spine to be aligned, the lower body must be involved. Awareness is first directed downward to the large muscles of the outer hips and thighs. These muscles (unlike the muscles of the back, shoulders, and neck) may be flexed, tensed, and energized to create a low-body sense of power and strength.

The knees should be softened, unlocked, flexible. The feet are flat on the floor, the weight of the body evenly distributed from toe to heel.

There is a danger that the singer may become obsessively fussy and mechanistic about this process of posturalawareness and alignment. This must be remedied or prevented by playfully involving the imagination at all times. Vivid images should be used to keep body and mind united in the interplay of singing energy:

1. You are standing on a sailboat in choppy water. The boat is swaying and rocking under you. You stand on the deck and maintain your balance without holding on with your hands.

2. Drop into a "martial arts" pose, the knees bent, the thigh muscles flexed and tightened, the feet pressing firmly into the floor. Keep your center of gravity low.

Copyright 2003 David Gordon

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