5 ways to use your posture to improve your singing
How important is posture in your singing?
Answer: very! And the reason why it’s so important is that one of the biggest subtle problems that will affect your tone and your tension is your posture – especially your head and neck alignment.
If you’re seated every day at work (whether it’s at a computer or – like me – at a piano!) it’s especially easy to start slouching. Your shoulders roll over, the neck comes up, and you end up with an incredibly bad posture just for your everyday back alignment – let alone for singing.
So I’ve got five different ways to help you improve your head and neck posture today. To start to stretch those muscles out, pull them in a better direction, and help you to see a difference in the way that your tone is coming out, or in the way that you’re articulating your sound.
Watch the video >>>
Or here’s the scannable version >>>
The thing that is constricting you is not the note, and it’s not your talent: it’s your posture.
You need to develop your understanding of how sound works and flows through your body, and your ability to put your body in a position that will enable sound to vibrate and resonate more freely.
Get your head and neck into alignment
[Watch the video from 2:46 to see how this looks]
Your whole body is a supportive structure in your singing, and singers often don’t really pay that much attention to it. For example, if you’ve got a microphone in front of you, you will probably be pulling your head forward as you sing. That can cause immense problems with strain, tone – and even pitch. Problems with your back muscles, the anchor muscles in your shoulders, and down into your intercostal muscles, and even your lower abdominals, will all have an impact on your singing.
But the first thing that you need to know is about proper head and neck alignment.
- Take a neutral posture and then put your thumbs on your clavicle and your fingers under your ears. Stretch up in between and you will probably feel all your back muscles really stretch, especially if you’re used to slouching.
- Just do a little bit of a stretch into that and feel that.
- Now take those fingers and just pull up from the back of your head slightly. Feel the stretch in the back of your spine. In this position you can move around and feel that softness and how much your head will turn further to the left and right when you’re just lifting up behind the back of your ears.
- If you can feel that pull down the back, that’s a clear indication that you’ve got slouching shoulders and some muscles that are overcorrecting.
If you’re in that normal, safe position and you can feel that stretch down the back of your spine, that’s fine for singing.
Position your neck and head for the type of music you’re singing
[Watch from 3:58]
Your head and neck posture and alignment can be different if you’re singing different styles of music.
For example, if you’re a classical singer, you can afford to drop your chin very slightly. The reason is that this actually lowers the larynx and the voice box, which creates a typically classical sound.
If you’re doing pop or contemporary you can afford to lift your head, but only very slightly.
Now, I’m going to say a caveat here: when you lift the head in pop music, the first thing that tends to happen is that the chest comes forward, the neck takes a lot of strain, and the back of the neck is crooked. So the most likely thing that’s going to happen if you are singing popular contemporary is that you’re going to feel an enormous amount of strain, a tight tummy and a lot of extra pressure and constriction around the laryngeal area, vocal folds and swallowing muscles. It’s going to cause you to feel very tight and constricted in your tone.
So, where does the pop or the contemporary singer position their neck and head?
Slightly chin up. Not right up – and not out. (It’s that outward posture, where the jaw is jutting out, that becomes most troublesome! All the tension comes to the back of the tongue. You’ll find it hard to articulate sound, your tone will get constricted.)
If you are doing stronger upper middle singing (belt), you’re going to want to be in a slightly anchored or raised back position, where you can feel that the top of your spine is a little bit longer.
Raise your chin, neck and back muscles. Stand and lean back slightly, so you’re drawing yoursed up a little bit taller and not collapsing in the middle. This will keep your whole vocal tract and resonance area free for that sound to keep vibrating as you’re singing.
[Watch from 9:12]
Getting some awareness around your own posture can be really insightful and provide a starting point for you to start to change it for the better, or find someone to help you improve.
Use a mirror Can you see your own bad habits? Not unless you can see yourself! So put a mirror in front of you and you can start to see what’s going on with your posture.
Record yourself singing on video and play it back. Watch yourself singing and pay attention when you’re doing certain phrases. What are you doing with your head and your neck? As you go to a top note, do you pull your chin around and go forward? Do you tighten the shoulders?
If after watching yourself you can see what you need to change, brilliant! Go change it.
If you don’t feel it works for you (or it throws up other problems), then you need to find a vocal coach.
Make an inventory of your posture
[Watch from 14:21]
When you’re standing up to sing, use this checklist:
Are your feet hip width apart? (they should be!)
Are you locking your knees or your back? (if so, you need to relax a bit)
Is your head over your shoulders? (You don’t want it jutting forward or pulled back)
Are your shoulders relaxed, so that when your arms are hanging loose you can feel that there is a diamond of support in your tummy? (If you feel you’re collapsing in the middle, that will affect your neck and head alignment, and consequently your voice.)
When you’ve got correct posture, it will not inhibit your larynx production, vibration or how your sound is being produced.
Get some feedback
[Watch from 15:45]
Sometimes we need somebody to help us correct our posture.
If you’re struggling with posture, it’s invaluable to have somebody give you feedback, so that you know exactly how to improve.
Once you’ve had an assessment of your posture you’ll be able to:
- See where the problems are
- Make a plan in order to correct your posture
- Test out your voice and your performances after correcting all of those things
- Notice a big difference in your singing!
Remember, you are the instrument.
Paying attention to that instrument, understanding how it works and taking care of it is going to make a big difference to how effectively you’re going to be able to use it.
Looking for more support, guidance and encouragement with your singing practise? Join us over at the Online Singing Academy.