Guess what? I’ve been experimenting with a little intention redirection with the singers I work with [I know. I AM SO VERY SNEAKY.] and … wouldn’t you know it? We found some interesting new directives that helped to re-coordinate their bodies!
let’s see now … which to share …
working with a singer who collapses the upper body or whose shoulders tend to lock forward? rather than asking them to stand up straight or to keep the shoulders released, try:
dividing the sternum in half (IN YOUR IMAGINATION, OF COURSE ) and sending each half of the sternum to the opposite side of the room at the same time
imagining the shoulder blades are in love with each other and want to touch (BUT NOT IN A GROSS WAY)
visualizing wearing the largest epaulets known to mankind and allowing the shoulders to expand into them (KIND OF LIKE ‘NOBLE POSTURE’ BUT NOT SO, YOU KNOW, STUCK)
having a dinosaur tail (DO THIS FOR REAL IF YOU CAN. AND THEN SEND ME THE PICTURES) that allows the body to release backward and find a more open and grounded stance (THANK YOU SARAH WHITTEN FOR THIS FABULOUS VISUALIZATION)
how do you change intention to coordinate the body in your studio? #imcurious
ps, if you’re in the Toronto area, you are CORDIALLY INVITED to come and hang out with Alison in August!
some days you’re all: I’m going to do a big ol’ blog post about STRAW EXERCISES because NO ONE HAS DONE ONE OF THOSE BEFORE …
and then you’re all:
roughly A MILLION people have already done big ol’ blog posts (and podcasts and YouTube videos and journal articles, ET CETERA) about straw exercises so why don’t you just quote the heck out of those folks already (which leaves you more time for drinking wine and congratulating yourself on being a freaking genius #isallImsayin)?
Using SOVT Exercises podcast episode from John Henny [John has a bunch of good podcast episodes about straw phonation and SOVT exercises you can check out … he even has a code you can use to save on purchasing your very own OOVO STRAW [they’re #ALLTHERAGE right now, friends. #pinkyswear]]
I’ve had the privilege of working one-on-one with Toronto-based Alexander Technique Teacher, Alison Jane Taylor and in a recent session, we talked about how intention shapes action and how, when voice teachers work with singers, we may come out of our ideal balance as we listen because our heads come forward to really hear the singer. In other words, if our intention (articulated or not) is to hear the singer with our ears, our body responds beautifully to that intention and moves forward from the head, leading with the ears … even if that movement results in the body being out of balance.
try it out: adopt your “habitual listening position” and observe where your head is in relation to your body …
We also talked about ways to reframe that intention and the possibilities that reframing can offer to the body as it responds to that reframed intention. For example:
what happens if I change from hearing with my ears to absorbing with my skin? Or drinking with my eyes? Or breathing in through my nose?
I’ve tried a few of these intention changes in the studio this week and have made some SUPER COOL DISCOVERIES about different kinds of perception and around how my body can respond to those different intentions.
So many of us perceive the singers we work with primarily through listening, which implies using the ears. And if that is our intention then – of course – we run the risk of coming out of balance as our ears try to get closer to the singer we’re listening to.
If this is something you’d like to change, consider INTERRUPTING YOUR INTENTION in some (or all!) of the following ways and see what kinds of differences you observe in your own body:
drink the singer’s acoustic energy in through an open mouth
observe the singer through the smallest aperture your eyes can make and through the largest
allow the singer’s energy (acoustic and otherwise) to wash over your body as if you are swimming in it
draw the singer’s sound into your ears from behind you, rather than from in front of you
imagine the singer’s acoustic energy is a tidal wave of sound that washes over the front of your body from bottom to top
There’s literally no right or wrong answer here; it’s all about finding more efficient ways of observing the singers we work with while at the same time, changing our own bodies so we’re ever-more balanced and released.
talk to me: tell me ALL THE BRILLIANT intentions you set in your studio and how they change your perceptions and body balance
ps, if you’re in the Toronto area and would like to do a little introduction to Alexander Technique and movement for singing, you are CORDIALLY INVITED to come and hang out with Alison in August!
The fundamental difference between all forms of (for lack of a better term) “Classical Singing” and almost all forms of (again with the lack-of-a-better-termness) “CCM” (and Jazz, and every other genre that doesn’t want to fall under the ‘contemporary commercial music’ label (which: FAIR. #youdoyou)) and Music Theatre is that classical singers are not amplified and (almost! (do not send me letters about this – I KNOW YOU CAN’T MAKE A SWEEPING GENERALIZATION ABOUT ALL THE THINGS … AND YET? I AM ABOUT TO. #Iamanenigma)) every other singer IS amplified.
In the voice studio, this necessity to create a sound that “carries” without amplification means that singers who are working on singing in classical styles are always working to maximize efficiency of production in order to create a sound that can be heard un-amplified and can “cut” through the sound of other instruments and/or singers, no matter which time period, style, or composer they are singing. (wow. now THAT’s a sentence you can really get lost in, isn’t it? #yourewelcome)
OF COURSE there are other things at play BUT consider that this may be where some of the issues with classically-trained voice teachers arise; we tend to conflate the things we were taught to do that help a sound to “carry” in a hall with “healthy” sound production.
I’m a compulsory teacher; if I know something that you don’t know? I will really, really want to tell you that thing. (And, yes, I am aware that that compulsion, if not controlled, can make me a bit of an asshat.)
Many of us teachers are this way, aren’t we?
And sometimes in our need to teach, the folks we work with don’t get the chance to discover (or truly learn). Because we over-prescribe.
Phrases such as “it will likely feel like …”, and “can you feel that … “, and “when we do this, this other thing will happen” can so easily replace the open-ended questions that are better at allowing students to truly discover and learn.
~ this is the part where things get personal #youvebeenwarned ~
I recently instructed a singer to allow height in the tongue while saying/singing the /i/ vowel and to revel in how fronted and soft the tongue feels … which wasn’t working for her. When we stumbled across a beautifully-formed /i/ in another context, I remembered how to be a good teacher for a minute and asked, “how does the tongue feel for you right now?”
Guess what she said? NOTHING ABOUT HEIGHT. OR FRONTING. OR RELEASED FORWARD. OR ANY OF THE OTHER DIRECTIVES I OFTEN GIVE TO SINGERS.
She said: “my tongue feels flat.”
Buuuuut … the tongue IS NOT FLAT. [I did not say this out loud.]
And then she said, “as compared to the concave-shape my tongue had when I had the swallowed/back /i/ sound”.
HUH. [I need more HUH moments in my studio, friends. Those are the good ones.]
Go on and challenge yourself to prescribe a little less and ask a little more.