Free the Posture – Free the Breath
Feel more in control of your breath by developing posture habits that encourage less tension in the body (your instrument). Think of your spine as being elongated, rather than merely straightening your back. Relax your shoulders down and away from your ears while lengthening the back of your neck. Also, be sure to keep your chin level. Any unwanted throat tension caused by lifting your chin will constrict your voice. Keep the rib cage lifted off the waist, allowing it to open out like an accordion as you inhale and exhale.
Where Should I Feel The Sound?
Before we get into the exercises, let’s just briefly chat about where we’re feeling the sound go. After all, it’s this vibration that allows us to sing in the first place. Without writing an entire article on how the sound is produced, your end goal should be to feel more vibration in the hard palette (or to greatly simplify it, the roof the mouth).
1) Get Your Hands Up!
Remember that concert where you were jumping excitedly with your arms in the air, wondering where all that energy came from? When your arms are above your head, the rib cage and chest can engage in an unobstructed deeper breath without those pesky shoulders thinking they’re involved. Shoulders are vocal party crashers, so don’t let them bully you! Singing with your arms up, especially on those high notes, can prove to your subconscious that your breath is intercostal muscle dependent, not shoulder dependent. Again, for this exercise be sure not to lift the chin since that brings additional tension to the throat.
2) Buzzing Bee
Nope, that’s not the sound of someone sleeping! We’re imitating the sound of a mosquito or bee. We start by softening our jaw and letting our front teeth lightly touch. Keep the lips as relaxed as possible while keeping your breath even and connected. Slide between the pitches, rather than re-starting the breath on each note. You can use this position to run your scale exercises. Bring your awareness to the vibration produced from the gentle connection between the enunciators [teeth] and continue to focus on relaxing your gums, jaw, and cheeks. Notice that the vibration moves into various places in your face, as the pitches rise and fall. Keep the volume even and somewhat low to focus on the sensations you’re experiencing.
3) Jump, Jump, Jump!
Time for some cardio singing routines! I seriously want you to start jumping around and get your heart rate up. This isn’t so much about singing as it is about moving the body and shaking off any excess or residual tension. This will help you produce vocal sounds more easily. Utilize sounds in your speaking range and simple call-and-response songs like “Jump.” Simply be aware of increasing your vocal volume, taking care not to shout while being aware of sensations in the roof of your mouth, face, gums, etc. It’s about the voice after all.
Short lists are items that are “so good I had to write them down.” I like to have an arsenal of stress relief, anti-tension, and voice freeing tools available to me. The exercises I’ve mentioned in this article are just a few of my favorites, but be sure to find ones that you’ll want to incorporate regularly into your practices. No one can remember them all, so keep a short list around of the tools that work the best for you!