Monthly Archives: August 2007

Pablo Honey!

                senior.jpg

I had a music room in my former school, ICA*.  It took me a few months before I started feeling like it was MY own room.  I brought a couple of personal things for the room which the students immediately noticed.  I realized then that I could make the music room an extension of myself, a way for my students to know a little more about me.

After the Christmas break, Cherry, one of my co-teachers, brought some toys her daughter had outgrown to donate to the school’s social action club.  Among them was a green rubber cactus in a cowboy get-up: big red hat, shades, and purple bandanna.  It was one of those toys that you can slip into an antenna or bar-b-que stick, having no spine to keep itself upright.  Its strange soft rubber texture amused me so much that Cherry gave it to me, and I returned the favor by using it to play pranks on our co-teachers, making her laugh the whole day.  A spineless rubber cactus + teachers caught unaware = a recipe for a roaring good time.

Well, not really.  Maybe just a fun break between the mundane routine inside the faculty room.

When the novelty of the rubber cactus wore off in the faculty room, I relocated it to the music room where the CD player antenna became its permanent backbone, and forgot all about it — until my first class for the day arrived.  They noticed the cactus right away and seemed fascinated with it.  When they asked me why it was there, I told them it was an observer and will make sure they participate in the activity.  Here he is:

                                 pab4.jpg

During recess, I thought I’d give the toy a name.  I thought of Pablo but wrote Pablo Honey on its name plate without thinking.  I decided not to change it, thinking the girls would easily make the connection to Radiohead’s first album.  pablohoney.jpg  They didn’t.  Many of them teased me, saying Pablo must be my ‘honey’.  Others had their own theories, like a reference to Pablo Neruda or to other famous people named Pablo.  I saw the futility of insisting its Radiohead origins and decided to remain mysterious.  What surprised me was the girls’ immediate acceptance of its name.  Not one of them suggested a different name or wondered why a toy would have a name in the first place.  From then on, the rubber cactus ceased being called ‘it’.  He became my sidekick and the music room’s official mascot.

                                 pab2.jpg

Pablo Honey helped me reach out to my students.  His presence caused a change in my and the girls’ attitude.  Maybe it was because he really did seem to watch over them from its high antenna spine, maybe it was because they saw a different side of me, one that was more playful or cool enough to bring a toy to class; whatever it was, the girls became more relaxed and happy to be in the music room because of him.  They liked shaking his jiggly arms and patting his head.  They took his picture (in fact, the one I’ve been using was taken by a student and Emailed to me) and doodled him during and outside of my class.  One of my seniors, Meggy, even drew his portrait:

                       pab3.jpg

It hangs above my clavinova at home.  Another senior, Christine, gave me a little cactus on the last day of school.  The tag on the pot said: “Pablo’s Honey”, which really warmed my heart.  As much as he gave my students the chance to see a different side of me, he gave me the opportunity to see a different side of my students, one that I never would have seen had I remained distant and non-human in their eyes.

My last day at ICA was bittersweet.  Pablo Honey watched as I packed up all my stuff, making me feel less alone inside the quiet music room.  In my new school, SPUQC**, I don’t have a music room or my own CD player.  Even if I did, I couldn’t bring Pablo Honey over there: he will always belong to my girls at ICA.  In the meantime, my new students seem quite fascinated by this timer I bring to class to keep me on schedule.  It’s shaped like a carrot and everytime I take it out of my bag, they giggle. 

                         carrot.jpg

Maybe it’s time to think of a name. 

*Immaculate Conception Academy
**St. Paul University Quezon City
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Take Care

WordPress has been glitchy of late.  I just wrote an entire post and it came up blank after I clicked “Save and Continue Editing”, so take care.  Don’t end up frustrated like me: copy-paste your text before saving or publishing your entry.

me.jpg <– Totally not smiling right now.  Sigh.

Not Alone

pablemusicteacher6.jpg

I am this (see above) no more

This may seem like a lazy post but I wanted to post the responses I received from my previous entry.  They are reminders for me and for anyone that:

  1. Other teachers get the blues, too.
  2. Getting the teaching blues doesn’t mean you’re a bad teacher.
  3. When you reach out with honesty, people will respond to you with honesty and help you.

blapple1.jpgFrom Eileen of Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas:

Dear Lizzy,

Sorry to see you going through this distress. Sometimes change comes slowly, but now you might be open to new opportunities. I write two blogs (one a serious one on education, and the other a whimsical blog on metaphysics–an outside interest of mine, that I want to learn more about). One reason I started blogging is I never have time to write either (and I hope to write some books as well as magazine articles). I just started an English-language writers’ group in my city, which meets roughly once a month. By blogging, and the need to post (at least once a week during school, and hopefully more) I’m hoping THAT will force me to figure out how to fit REGULAR writing into my schedule. Maybe the blog can help you do that, too?

blapple1.jpgFrom Repairman of Repairkit:

Malaise and mild depression hits all of us at various points. Being male, I’m not sure if my experience is relevant, but a supportive network of friends — even one good one — will often get us over the period of distress. And nothing helps like a loving “significant other.”

Have you defined (to yourself, at least) what you want to do, where you see yourself in five, ten years? Are you happy? Set some big goals. People founder without big goals.

Also, ambivalence, having contradictory feelings about the same thing, isn’t exactly uncommon. Bear with it!  Hoping the sun shines for you!

blapple1.jpgFrom Jose of The Jose Vilson:

First off, let me say that I decided not to read the comments to this post. After all, it’s only now that NYC teachers like myself are getting back into the hang of things with teaching. However, after reading this post, I had a couple of thoughts:

1) Being yourself is such a weird concept. On the one end, it’s what helps you get through the struggles and complexities of being in the classroom. However it also makes us feel disingenuous about the role we play in front of the kids. That’s why much of what we do is acting. Even when we have rough patches, we’re supposed to act apart from ourselves in a sense.

2) Teaching would be great if it wasn’t for all the administrative stuff. I hate having to do all that paperwork, and excuse my Latin, but that shit sucks. I would rather just teach the kids stuff and go back and forth until they learned it. Unfortunately, a lot of it comes with the job. Maybe a part of the fact that we don’t want to see more paperwork is because when we signed on to be teachers, it was to run from the traditional jobs in the office. Paper, however, comes with almost everything out there.

3) I’m almost in the same boat as you. Writing is my passion as well, but in this capitalist society, writers don’t get paid, and those that do are very few and far between. The reason I even have my job is because it’s the only job I knew I could do. If I had a choice, I’d wake up, eat Lucky Charms, and sit on my ass writing and watching NY Yankee games. Yet, most writers that dedicate themselves solely to writing are poor for real, and often depend on the kindness and generosity of others.

4) Corollary: Spaces like these are important. Not only can you jot down some notes that you wanted to write on, you can continue practicing and getting feedback. Some writers I knew will write about a page for their entire “Book Writing” day. Sometimes, being busy the way we are makes us have to be efficient and focused on the task when we get the chance to write. Be grateful for every opportunity you get.

5) To be honest, as a suggestion, I think I love “The Music Teacher” because of its simplicity. If you think back to the great films and pieces I’ve ever read, the greatest books had titles that were really simple, because it stood in stark contrast to the complex themes of the book.

6) To paraphrase the Lion King, courage doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid. Take heart in what you do. Be strong.

Peace …

Thank you, Eileen, Repaiman and Jose.  For you three: blapple1.jpg, for your words of encouragement and support.  You have made me realize that I am where I should be and for that I am grateful.

Dear Kids: A Letter of Revelation and Reluctance

eyeapplesgrainy.jpg Dear Kids,

I haven’t been blogging lately and there’s a reason for that.  I’m ashamed to admit it, because I’m in my 30’s and I’m a teacher, but right now I hate my life.  It consists of 3 components, my life:

  • Teaching  twice a week in a private High School for girls.  I am the only music teacher in HS and I handle 11 classes.
  • Teaching at a performance arts school where I give lessons in voice and piano. 
  • Finishing my degree in my university so I can get my teaching license exams.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said it and left you with the comforting idea that teachers are steady creatures.  Isn’t one supposed to be less confused about life the older one gets?  That’s what I thought, too, when I was younger.  And for a teacher to feel blah-ish about her life, what a disgrace! — right?

When I’m in the classroom, I feel fine.  The same goes for when I’m giving my voice and piano students their lessons.  I’ve always loved being in school and I don’t mind that I’m almost always the oldest student in my classes now.  When I’m in the moment of living my life, I am happy — happy to be where I am.

It’s afterwards that I get this sense of nothingness.  Once I sit myself on my sofa and rest my feet from hitting the campus concrete, I resent the thought of having to wake up early the next day to go through the whole routine again.  I grit my teeth at all the paperwork I need to submit both as a teacher and as a student.  I wish I could just stay where I was and never leave my room.  Truth be told, I just want to sit at home with my laptop at the ready and write until my eyelids get heavy.  I rediscovered my passion for writing a couple of years ago and, apart from an unhappy period languishing from writer’s block, haven’t stopped writing since. 

Confused, are you?  So am I.  Sometimes I wonder why I received the gift of music.  I never asked for it and just noticed how many musical things came easy to me.  My gift impressed quite a few teachers.  I won a couple of awards and brought home trophies from a few competitions.  I got high marks in my music subjects even without trying.  Do I love music?  I’m not really sure, but I’ll tell you one thing: I rarely listen to it.  I used to but have stopped.  I only do so when I have to.  I don’t know why.   I still would have spurts of inspiration and spend quality time with my keyboard from time to time, but given the choice between music and writing, I would choose the latter. 

I had a talk with myself some time ago and told myself that there’s no reason for me to feel confused, that I could keep my current life and add writing as one of my many hobbies.  that seemed a good enough compromise to smooth my crumpled spirit.  The only snag to my proposed paradigm shift is this: writing is my passion, therefore it can’t be a hobby.  A hobby is something you like doing and you can give it space and go back to it when you have time.  I love writing and resent not having enough time for it.   At the same time, I love teaching music but wish for the tedious bits about it to go away so I can have more time to write.

In light of this admission, I have decided to change my weblog title and call it like it is.  I am “The Music Teacher” but sometimes, I wish I weren’t.  Therefore, from now on I shall be known as “The (Sometimes Reluctant) Music Teacher“.  Not very hip or snazzy title but at least it rings true. 

What can I say, kids?  Despite her age and job title, your teacher is very much human, and is as confused about her life as the rest of the human race.

Tay Zonday: A Chocolate Philip Glass?

Before you raise your fists in an uproar and call me a racist, watch the clip… 

The title is a play on Tay Zonday’s song, “Chocolate Rain” which, according to Yahoo and Eonline, is sweeping both virtual and real worlds.  A few nights ago, Zonday was a guest on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ where he performed his famed song live.  Famous musicians like John Mayer and Tre Cool have made their own version of the song while 8,000 spoofs were uploaded in YouTube.  His clip garnered 5,140,000 hits and was made favorite 22,223 times. 

                                          “Chocolate Rain” as Hook 

Now, why would a serious music teacher like myself write about Tay Zonday?  Is his song worthy enough to be mentioned here, much less a classroom? 

I say, yes.

5,140,000 hits. Made favorite 22,223.  Chances are my students could have been one of those who watched the clip.  Yours could have been one of those who saved the clip to their favorites folder.  In this day and age of virtual living, we teachers should not find that surprising. 

My once-a-week class of 50 minutes gives me the burden of revving my students’ interests.  I deliberately chose the word “rev” instead of “motivate” to emphasize the urgency of catching their attention.  In order to do this, I’m constantly on the look-out for ‘hooks’: things that 12-18 year-olds might be interested in.  They could be positive exemplars that don’t have to have the same exact characteristics as my topic.  A few solid similarities go a long way with ‘hooks’.  The same goes for negative exemplars.  Their differences can be a basis for comparison and, therefore, fodder for discussion.  Of course, there’s a huge gulf between concrete contrasts and flimsy connections.  Students can detect desperation faster than vacating their chairs at the end of the day.  In order for me to find real solid connections between what might interest them and my topic, I put myself in their sneakers, so to speak, and listen and learn until I find it interesting, too.  I find that that’s the best way to be sincere.

                                        “Chocolate Rain” and Minimalism

Aside from its obvious potential for teaching vocal timbre and electronic music, we can use “Chocolate Rain” as a jumping off  point for introducing minimalism, the twentieth century genre popularized by the likes of Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley.  Minimalist music is based mostly in reiteration, stasis and, slow transformation.  It is:

“… any music that works with limited or minimal materials: pieces that use only a few notes, pieces that use only a few words of text, or pieces written for very limited instruments, such as antique cymbals, bicycle wheels, or whisky glasses. It includes pieces that sustain one basic electronic rumble for a long time. It includes pieces made exclusively from recordings of rivers and streams. It includes pieces that move in endless circles. It includes pieces that set up an unmoving wall of saxophone sound. It includes pieces that take a very long time to move gradually from one kind of music to another kind. It includes pieces that permit all possible pitches, as long as they fall between C and D. It includes pieces that slow the tempo down to two or three notes per minute.”

                                                            Tom Johnson, The Village Voice, 1989 

                              A Quickie Musical Analysis of “Chocolate Rain”

  1. Reiteration of a musical phrase: Zonday had a theme made up of 13 notes (the rest are passing notes) which he repeated for 4’52”.  Referring to Tom Johnson’s explanation, it was a piece that moved in a seemingly endless circle.
  2. Repetition of text: His repetition of the words “chocolate rain” contributes to the constancy of the piece.
  3. Subtle transformation: Although the theme was consistent, you can hear that he created subtle changes by moving the bass to a lower and higher register.  He also made use of syncopation, stressing a subdivision of a beat usually not emphasized, in the shift of the bass to the lower register. 
  4. Single timbre: The most obvious. Although he used an electric keyboard and could have programmed it for other timbres, he chose one and stayed with it throughout the piece.

Okay.  That may have been a simplistic dissection of his song but, hey, unlike Zonday I can’t go on and on about one thing.  Besides, the ‘hook’ is just the beginning.  IF you plan to use “Chocolate Rain” as one then the goal is not to dwell on it.  Cite it, silently thank Tay Zonday for the help, and then get down to business.  That is, if you can stop the students, and yourself, from humming his hypnotic repetitive melody.  Last Song Syndrome (LSS) can be such a pain in the butt.    

My sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimalist_music
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Glass
http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/Tay_Zonday
Kids, repeat after me: plagiarism is a stupid person’s only recourse.

All Hail the Beatboxing Flutist!

Prepare to be amazed. 

Bravo! Bravo! What a multi-tasker! 😀

I am envious.  Goaded by my first boyfriend, I attempted to learn the flute when I was in college but, after a few sessions, I threw in the instrument, so to speak.  Kids, I keep telling you that singing is an unnatural act but so is playing any wind instrument.  I admire all wind players because only unwavering dedication and unshakeable discipline can make them suffer years of training.  I say “suffer” because wind players undergo many physiological difficulties.  New wind students often experience black-outs, numbness in the arms and, other body responses to breathing deeply and holding one’s breath.  It’s like learning a new skill and the body needs to get used to it.  Once it does, there are other things wind players have to contend with, namely health problems.  I read an article written by a dentist once and he discussed the typical dental implications of playing single and double reed instruments which included, among others, receding gums and overbite problems.  Another article spoke of wind players having headaches and occasional retinal hemorrhages, again due to excessive air pressures produced when blowing into their instruments.  Then another one said flutists often get contact dermatitis because of the constant contact of their flute with their chin. 

insts.jpg

Now, those are just the physiological problems.  There are psychological ones, too.  Case in point, when I typed “reed players dental problems” on Google, I was asked, “Did you mean: reed players mental problems?”  I almost laughed out loud.  I don’t know about mental problems but I do know lots of musicians who have emotional problems, reed players et al.   All that practicing made many of us socially inept and, without our instruments, we feel vulnerable as newborn babes.  We especially go through this when we’re younger (tween and teen years) when everyone is still trying to find their place and fit in in social circles.  By the time we’re experts or professionals and have more time to socialize, we find that we can’t because we never properly learned to. But that’s the pay-off of being a musician. 

Everything people do in life has a pay-off; it just so happens this is what some of us have chosen and, despite dental, mental and, many other problems, we will always deem and declare and  that we have chosen well.   

My Sources:
I discovered the YouTube clip at http://ryandupre.wordpress.com/. 🙂
Aural References (listen to short performances by each instrument):
http://datadragon.com/education/instruments/winds.shtml 
Physiological Problems:
http://tigger.uic.edu/sph/glakes/harts1/HARTS_library/musichaz.txt
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1365-4362.1999.00656.x
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=416484 
Hey, kid! Give yourself a chance to excel.  Please do not plagiarize.

Electrify Thyself: iPods and Thunderstorms

I remember when cellular phones first came out, talk spread that using it can give you cancer. Something about the signals, I think. I haven’t heard anything else since then so the info must have been unfounded and was just one of those things: a rumor.

Recently, warnings about the use of iPods, particularly during thunderstorms, had been circulating. In rainy Manila, they didn’t seem to be taken seriously judging by the many peeps still using their iPods despite lightning and heavy downpours. This news article, however, proves that using these handy music gadgets during thunderstorms really is a recipe for disaster.

In Vancouver, a 37-year-old guy was out enjoying his run while listening to some tunes. Unfortunately, he did this during a thunderstorm. Instead of fuelling him with music during his run, his iPod caused him permanent deafness after he was thrown 8 ft after an adjacent tree was struck by lightning.

In Colorado, A 17-year-old guy was being a good kid, mowing the front lawn of his home while listening to Metallica rock on his iPod. It wasn’t raining that day. In fact, it was a good day for mowing lawns. But there was a storm off in the distance which means lightning strikes can still occur. Again, a nearby tree was the culprit: it hit him after it was struck by lightning.

Well, you may argue, trees do get struck by lightning. Their iPods may not have anything to do with it. Not exactly. Although there is no hard fact that iPods can attract lightning strikes, both victims’ injuries prove that iPods can cause second-degree burns, muscular damages, broken bones and deafness.

Lightning directly striking people are rare. Usually, it jumps from an object (like a tree or signpost) to a person who happens to be nearby. This phenomenon is called side flash, and often people get thrown to a distance leading to further injury. But, because of the high resistance of our skin, flashover often occurs, an effect where lightning is conducted over the outside of the body. However, sweat and the metallic material from your iPod can disrupt the flashover and direct the current straight to your head.


It may look it but this poor kid’s injuries are not just external. The burn on his ear and jawline is just part of it. The current caused sudden heating and expanding of air inside his ear which led to increased pressure which, in turn, ruptured his eardrums. It also dislocated tiny bones that are essential in transmitting soundwaves. As if permanent deafness is not enough, the current travelling through his iPod player’s wires also caused nasty burns, lining up the side of his torso eventhough the cord was outside of this shirt. His hip also suffered second-degree burns where the iPod had been in a pocket.

I couldn’t find a photo of the runner from Vancouver, but the news reported that he suffered worse injuries. Aside from permanent deafness, the current running through the cord of his headphones caused his jaw to break in four places.

Alarming, isn’t it? But this article isn’t meant to scare you. It’s meant to make you aware of the risks of using your beloved iPod (or any MP3, for that matter). So, what to do.

1. Never use your iPod during a thunderstorm.

2. If the rain’s pouring down heavily but you don’t see any lightning or hear thunder, err on the side of caution and switch your iPod off.

3. Don’t forget: lightning strikes can occur even if a storm is miles away. Dark clouds in the distance can tell you if there’s a storm further away. Again, better be safe than sorry: switch your iPod off.

4. “When thunder roars, go indoors”. A common denominator of iPod-lightning accidents occur outdoors. If you can’t live without your tunes then stay indoors during the thunderstorm and listen to them to your heart’s content.

5. Lastly, inform people of the hazards of using iPods during thunderstorms. Your warning can save them from permanent scarring, lifelong injuries and a future without music due to deafness.

Be wise. Be safe.

My references:
http://www.azstarnet.com/news/191407 (photos)
http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/357/2/198
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning
This article was written based on research and smarts. Plagiarism is for stupid people.

The Thinking Singer: Your Thoracic Diaphragm

Thinking singers, before we move on to the next important step in singing, it is very pertinent that we tackle a certain body part essential in efficient breathing and beautiful singing: the diaphragm.


“Dia–whatta?”

There are several types of diaphragm:

  • The Thoracic diaphragm, a shelf of muscle extending between the thorax and abdomen
  • The Pelvic diaphragm, consists of the Levator ani and the Coccygeus (fancy names for pelvic muscles)
  • The Urogenital diaphragm, a layer of the pelvis separating a certain sac from the upper pelvis
  • The iris
  • The eardrum

In other words, any dome-shaped dividing structure may be called a diaphragm. Fortunately, thinking singers are concerned only with the thoracic diaphragm which separates the thoracic (with lungs and heart) and abdominal cavity (with the digestive and urogenital systems). Since it’s dome-shaped, its convex upper surface forms the floor of the thoracic viscera*, and its concave under surface the roof of the abdominal viscera.

*internal organs 🙂

“Are we there yet?”

Doubtless if you’ve had any voice training, you would have heard of the diaphragm. Usually, when asked, people would point to their stomachs when I ask them where the diaphragm is. There had been some instances where my female students would even refer to their pot belly. As you can see in the first illustration, the diaphragm is located under the lungs, extending across the bottom of the ribcage.

“Isn’t the diaphragm like the appendix — just another superfluous body part?”
Nope. Aside from its very important contribution in helping to expel vomit, feces, and urine from our body, it is also essential in efficient breathing: in order to draw air into the lungs, the diaphragm contracts, thus enlarging the thoracic cavity and reducing intra-thoracic pressure. In simpler terms, when we inhale and the diaphragm contracts, it allows more space for our lungs to expand.

This is the tricky part where singers often err. Inappropriate imagery or inadequte explanations cause bad breathing and singing habits. When I was younger, I used to think that when my teacher would say,”Contract your diaphragm”, it meant I have to intentionally tighten my abdominal muscles. Wrong. Since the diaphragm is located above the abdominal cavity, tightening the abdomen will not activate it. Just like a rubber band, the “contraction” of this dome-shaped fibrous muscle occurs when it expands. In fact, the outward manisfestation that diaphragm is working properly is the torso getting larger when one inhales.

Try watching a baby breathe while sleeping. Observe the rise and fall of the center of his torso. When he inhales, his center rises; when he exhales, it falls because of the recoil of the lungs and the tissues lining the thoracic cavity. That’s his diaphragm naturally at work. I was told by one of my voice teachers that, often, people lose this natural use of the diaphragm as we get older. Improper breathing techniques (“shoulders should rise when we inhale”, “push in your stomach”, etc.) and even infrequent cardio/aerobic activities are the main culprits.

Activating your diaphragm can also help your posture. Because of its location, this little muscle supports your lumbar vertebrae (back) as well as your costal cartilages (beneath your ribs). In fact, I’ve heard a ballet teacher refer to the diaphragm as ‘our body’s natural girdle’. She was 84 and had a better posture and stance than her students.

Things to Remember:

  • As thinking singers, activating your diaphragm is a crucial key in proper breathing. Practice inhaling and allowing your diaphragm (you know were it is now) to relax. When it’s relaxed while you inhale, it can tighten properly.
  • Tightening your diaphragm doesn’t mean pushing in your abdominal muscles. When your diaphragm expands to create space for your lungs, it will tighten naturally.
  • Your diaphragm starts relaxing when you exhale. This means that it goes back to its original dome-shape. This is actually where you will notice an outward sign: your abdomen sort of getting pushed in.
  • The diaphragm also helps give you good posture, and, if you read the first article of posture, you know that beautiful singing starts there.

Illustrations courtesy of the awesome wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaphragm_(anatomy) . I modified them, of course. (plagiarism: bad)

The Thinking Singer: Proper Posture



Kids, this is a fact: singing is an unnatural act. Don’t be fooled by how effortless many of your favorite singers perform. They practice to appear effortless: it’s all part of the show.

Of course, as in many things in life: the more you do, the easier it becomes. So, just as athletes diligently exercise to train for a competition, singers carefully prepare their bodies for a performance.
Why, you may ask?
Another fact: you use your entire body when you sing. People often make the mistake of thinking that singing only entails the use of the vocal folds. That is so far from the truth. Singing begins with posture; is fueled by the air we breathe; gains clarity with the use of almost every part of our bodies from the shoulder up. When you sing, YOU become the instrument.

Isn’t that grand?

What, then, does this mean? Singing is an art. It’s not magic, and it definitely is not instant brilliance. You may have been given the gift of singing but that won’t take you far unless you nurture it. Caring for your instrument – you — is most imperative. This means you have to know how your instrument works; and once you do, be dedicated to its upkeep. You need to be patient and persistent. You need to be a thinking singer.

So, let’s begin. Let’s learn how to sing.

Thinking singers start with posture. Check yourself, please.


Let’s tackle each one.

  • Are both your feet planted steadily on the floor?
    Both feet must be planted firmly on the floor. It all starts here. How can you keep your spine straight (the next step) if your stance is unbalanced?Many voice teachers and singers, and even theatre performers and dancers, attest to this: plant one foot slightly forward but keep the balance. Why? This enables your body to lean slightly forward, keeping your spine straight and relaxed. This also benefits you psychologically because leaning forward makes your energy flow forward where the audience usually is. It places you in the position of giving – and don’t singers ‘give’ themselves every time they perform?
  • Is your spine straight?
    Imagine ballerinas when they stand. They keep their spines erect, their shoulders down, BUT their chins tucked in. They were trained to imagine a cord pulling them up from the very top of their heads. Therefore, it is essential that you be vigilant in keeping your frame always upright.Another benefit of a straight spine is this: it helps your diaphragm do its job. Although the deal with this thing, the diaphragm, will be tackled further in my succeeding articles, this much I can say now: it acts as your natural girdle, supporting your lungs (among other things) as you sing (as well as giving you that hourglass figure).
  • Are your shoulders relaxed?
    You might be wondering why the shoulders get a double mention. This is why, and it’s a hard and fast rule: everything from the shoulders and above must be relaxed. If your shoulders are tense, then your neck gets tense. If your neck gets tense, then your jaw gets tense. If your jaw gets tense then – well, you get the picture. Everything in our body is connected to everything else so once you neglect one part of your body, the others also suffer.All this tension from the shoulders up is also a no-no because — where exactly are your vocal chords? Right. To put it plainly: somewhere in your neck. How can the little muscle do its job if its residence is stressed? It can’t.

So, there it is. Your first step unto the proper path of singing. Like I said, it is an unnatural act. Everything one does is deliberate and well-thought out. No magic here. No accidents or instances of chance. Now that you know how to achieve proper posture, constantly check yourself. It’s your body after all — no one else can do it for you. That is the thinking singer’s burden. But don’t be daunted. It is also what will lead you to excellence.