Tag Archives: Musical Theatre

Movement

Do you like to move? Do you feel trapped and tense in your body when you sing? How does movement (or stillness) inform your singing? I’m not talking about a dance background being necessary for you to sing, but by being free in your body, you can improve vocal function and freedom in your sound overall.

internal views of body movement

When first learning to sing, it can be challenging to even move an arm voluntarily, let alone coordinate it with your singing. That’s not to say you don’t move – maybe you have some involuntary movement happening? It could be hand tension that is coming down from your neck, it might be a little knee wobble you do when you sing. Or maybe your shoulders get a little tight when you run out of breath? The next time you’re practicing, check in on that. As distracting as it is, get in front of a full-length mirror and observe.

You are your own best teacher.

There is a direct correlation between vocal tension and unnecessary body tension. By giving yourself permission to move, you create new pathways of freedom in your sound.

Voluntary movement is very freeing, but coordinating it with singing might feel a little weird at first.

Below are some simple movements you can do to free your body from involuntary tension while you sing. You can practice all of these movements first without singing, then try singing a phrase or line while doing them. If you have mobility constraints or pathology, trust that your body will know how far to go with these movements.

  1. If you’re not already standing while practicing, you should be.
  2. Walk around your house/practice room. Swing your arms freely. Sing!
  3. When singing a descending line, raise your arm or arms from your sides to shoulder height, in a shape as if you are holding onto a very large beach ball. This move is intended to counteract a tendency to ‘sink’ while singing a descending line.
  4. When singing an ascending line, start with your arms raised in front of you and slightly to the side (large beach ball), and then slowly lower them to your side as you sing that line.
  5. While singing a phrase with an ascending line, bend your knees, bend your torso slightly at the hips (as if you are about to sit in a chair) and let your back and head be long. Imagine a long, free line from your tailbone, up your spine to the top of your head). You can place a chair behind you for reassurance, if you like.
  6. While singing a phrase with a descending line, reverse the movement of number 5. Start in that ‘nearly sitting’ position, then slowly stand up tall while singing your descending line. Your torso should be roughly 45 degrees to the wall and you can start by looking at a point where the floor meets the wall. As you stand your vision moves up the wall, and your body lengthens naturally. You can start in the chair, if you like. Be sure to watch the video below for more information!

Some of these movements are related to a form of body awareness called The Alexander Technique. You can find many videos on YouTube about this technique – here is a short one that clearly shows the sitting to standing position. Scroll to about 2 minutes in and you’ll see the sitting/standing position I describe above. Feel free to watch more Alexander Technique videos – they are a wealth of great information.

Try the above movements and see if they work for you with finding more freedom in your sound. Do you already move when you sing? What do you do when you sing to keep freedom in your sound and in your body? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment in the Reply box below – or better yet share this post with those you think would find it useful.

As always, thanks for reading, sharing, and singing!

Discovery

You know that feeling when you finally ‘get’ what someone is talking about. Up until then, you think you understand what they mean, then Presto!, something clicks, something falls into place, and you realize that what you knew before was the tip of the iceberg, and now you know there is more under the surface….

That’s discovery. How exciting is that?!!

As a student, it’s thrilling, and as a teacher, doubly so, as it means you, as a student, are taking risks and discovering new ways to explore singing and sound.

There are external and internal discoveries. External discoveries are those outside of your body – perhaps you found a new restaurant, found a hidden drawer in your antique desk, maybe it was forgotten treasure at the back of your closet?

I am talking today about internal discoveries. Those real moments when your brain makes a connection with a physical act of exploration.

Internal discoveries don’t just happen in singing, as you probably know. Discoveries happen in yoga class, in the classroom, in the workplace, etc.. Sometimes they are new methods of doing things, sometimes it’s a whole new process that works better for you overall, and sometimes it’s a simple as adjusting your big toe slightly!

Re-discovery can be tricky, though…especially when you’re learning singing, or even another instrument!

Have you ever discovered something then went back later to try and find ‘it’ – whatever ‘it’ may be, and it’s been harder to find? Sort of like chasing a dragon?

Don’t despair! Sometimes the harder you chase, the more elusive it is. Here is a process to try, the next time you are returning to a discovery.

  1. Think back to the date, time of day, and location of that discovery.
  2. Remember in great detail all aspects of that time, including what you were wearing, who said what, how you were feeling.
  3. If it helps, close your eyes and envision that moment in your head
  4. Now try to replicate what you ‘discovered’ in the present time.

You’ll probably find that muscle memory will kick-in. You may also find that the re-discovery isn’t as strong a ‘feeling’ as the discovery. In my experience, this is completely normal. It’s just a sign that you are incorporating this ‘discovery’ into your being.

If the steps above don’t seem to work, don’t despair – just keep exploring those sensations. You will find it again!

Once you have found it multiple times, you own it! It will now be a process of refining and integrating what you have discovered into your daily practice.

What kind of discoveries have you made – external or internal? Are they special and memorable?  Hit the Reply link above and share your discoveries!

Gratitude

Having been sick for nearly 10 days and barely able to sing for 5 of those, I decided to write about gratitude.

I am grateful that I can phonate again, even if I don’t have my usual energy to sing for as long as I’d like.

I am grateful to be in a place where I can sing and teach singing – sharing something I love and nurturing that same spark in others.

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I am grateful for the joyful reaction of my students when they find new pathways and resonance in their singing.

I am grateful that so much music is available to share between people, in so many different forms.

I am grateful so many musical outlets exist for all types of people.Music in any form is a joy to be shared with yourself, and with others.

I am grateful for music for the fun of it. I am grateful for performing music.

I am grateful to have all of my senses with which to enjoy music.

I am grateful for the variety of music.

I live in a small city where there is an embarrassment of performing arts riches – straight theatre, musical theatre, operetta, improv groups, opera, a Conservatory of Music and a flourishing university music department. There is a well-respected jazz bar, several smaller music schools, and venues for rock and roll bands getting their start. There is a big Fringe festival here in the summer, and a unique solo performing arts festival called UNO. There is a fairly new, medium sized arena where a number of big-time musical acts come to perform. There is a very active Early Music Society. There are choirs to suit every need, performing everything from a capella memorized repertoire, to numerous well attended church choirs, to advanced choirs performing with the Victoria Symphony. For all of this I am thankful.

Have you ever just stepped back and looked at your singing life from a distance? Maybe you’re contemplating singing but haven’t yet taken the plunge into lessons, a choir, or another outlet. The sooner you start, the more grateful you will feel for having taken that step.

And finally, I am grateful to you, dear reader, for reading and sharing these words.

I hope they inspire you to make a record in some way of the things for which you are grateful. Each evening before I sleep, I write down three gratitudes. It’s a nice way reflect on my day and no matter how difficult my day was, I always find three things for which to be grateful.

I would love to hear from you and what you are grateful for. Feel free to leave your comments below.

How to Find the Right Teacher

If you have been reading my blog for some time, then you know I’ve been encouraging you to learn to sing. Taking lessons from a person is far superior to just reading a manual or watching an online course of YouTube videos. YouTube is great, and there are many fantastic resources out there for singing, once you have gained some basic vocal technique and feedback from a real person!

I’ve outlined the steps below in more detail, but here is a basic list:

  1. Ask yourself what you like to sing? How would you like to sing? What are your goals?
  2. Community research – what musical resources are available in your community?
  3. Trial lesson(s)
  4. How much to pay?
  5. Questions to ask your teacher
  6. Personality match
  7. Opening your mouth to sing for a stranger
  1. What genres of music do you like to listen to? Jazz, Rock, Pop, Musical Theatre, Indie, Folk, Classical? Who are your favourite singers? Whose music to you like to sing along with? What exactly are your musical goals?  Answering some of these questions will help you decide how to narrow down a choice for a voice teacher. If you are an aspiring classical singer and the only teachers available in your community teach folk singing, you may have to broaden your search to other nearby communities. If you are a choral singer who is looking to improve your enjoyment of singing in a group setting, then try to find a teacher who has experience singing in a choir or training other choral singers. These are not requirements, just suggestions about how to direct your search. The basic mechanics of singing are very similar across genres, it’s the details and delivery that change.
  2. Look around your community first: ask your social circle, research music schools, church and community choirs, community theatres, the public library, etc. Are there any local performers who you admire and might like to learn from? Is there a local music school with voice teachers available who teach different styles of singing? Start in any one of these places and ask questions. How much you pay will depend on the size of your community (city vs. small town) and the qualifications of your teacher. This research will take some time, but it is important as it will help you get the right fit for a teacher.
  3. Once you have found a few teacher resources, contact them (or the school) to ask about a trial lesson. Some teachers offer a short first lesson at no charge, others will charge for 30 minutes or more. Book a trial lesson with each of your researched teachers. Take a recording device and a notebook so you can listen back and decide which teacher worked best with you.
  4. Rates vary widely across communities. As a basis for comparison, I live in a city of less than 500,000 people, I have a Master’s degree in Performance, and I charge between $45-$50 per hour. At most music schools you should expect pay a minimum of $20 per hour for training in any instrument.
  5. Make a short list of questions to ask your teacher – you can either prepare this before you call to book an initial lesson, or you can bring your questions to your lesson. Your potential teacher likely has some resources about themselves online – perhaps a website, an about.me page, a LinkedIn Profile, or a biography on a music school website, etc. If they don’t, you will have to ask more questions. Questions to ask might include: How long have you been teaching? Where did you do your vocal training? Do you play other instruments? What are some of your favorite singers/ensembles/bands/genres? What different styles do you teach?
  6. Now that you have the ‘technical’ requirements out of the way, do you like your potential teacher? Are they friendly, helpful, outgoing, too boisterous, intimidating? How do you feel after your lesson? Do you feel inspired to practice? Do you feel as if you don’t want to see that person again? Pay attention to all these feelings – this is why you take a notebook – to write down your thoughts in the lesson and post-lesson.
  7. If you are going to take a lesson, be prepared to open your mouth and sing for them. This may seem a simple and obvious request, but your voice is a part of you, and you are opening up yourself to someone for their feedback and help. I usually sing along with my student the first few times/exercises/etc. in order to make them feel comfortable and to let them hear my voice.  Just be brave, breathe, open your mouth, and sing.

Be prepared to listen to what your teacher has to say and to follow their suggestions for your own practice. Listen to your own voice with new ears. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things with your voice. Above all, have fun! Finding the right teacher will enable you to improve something you already enjoy doing.