Category Archives: voice

The Arki Files: UP Arkaira in Sonata Form

EXPOSITION

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December 14, 2007 (11:30 P.M.)

I knew I shouldn’t have hopped (yes, hopped) all night and drank that cold glass of coke because I can feel the clammy hands of the flu I thought I had shaken off this afternoon reaching for my neck as I type this.  Suddenly, after a night at the ball, I am again the pumpkin abandoned by magic.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve trained and conducted a choir.  Nor was it my first competition or performance in front of a large crowd.  But I know myself and my tendency, not to forget exactly, but to look back and feel that the things I’ve done were not that special.  It’s not that I don’t value the things I’ve done; I just tend not to rest on my laurels.  Sometimes, though, this compulsion to move forward results in me taking my accomplishments for granted.  I wouldn’t mind so much if they didn’t involve other people, but when they do, and the images and names of the people in my past circles blur along with the memory of my deeds, I feel like I’ve betrayed them in some way. 

Because I don’t want to forget this, the people and the three weeks we spent together, I will write about it. 

Because it is special, I will recount it so the memory of it will live on in the telling and reading.

DEVELOPMENT

UP Arkaira is the College of Architecture’s organization that “provides a venue for architecture students to put to use their musical talents and to simply enjoy music.”   I came to know of the group’s existence because, Val Con, a former student off mine at ICA, texted me three weeks ago asking if I can train and conduct their choir for the upcoming UP Carolfest 2007.  I didn’t really have plans of accepting choral work this year since I had so much to do, but I told myself, if I like them I’ll say ‘yes’.  I met Val the next day along with their 2 representatives: Richard, their former conductor, and Ekang, one of their sopranos and, I must say, a real charmer.  I liked them immediately, but there was the final test: I wanted to see what they thought I was worth. 

I’m not money-hungry, people will tell you, but I recently made a bold statement in my other blog about naming my price and sticking to it since I always seem to give in to requests of reducing my fee.  I told them my hourly rate and that I was willing to give them a package price, but that they had to decide what to pay me.  I even warned: “There’s an acceptable fee and one that borders on insulting.  Think about this carefully.”

To make a long story short, Ekang got back to me and quoted an acceptable fee, adding that this was everything their org had in the bank.  I was so touched that, instead of accepting the fee, I voluntarily reduced it by 20%. – doh!  This has made me the butt of jokes amongst my musician friends who laughed like hyenas after I admitted it.  A freelance-writer friend, after much computation, gave me the exact amount I was getting per hour and told me, in a disappointed tone, to stick to my guns next time.  Those hyenas (I say this with great affection) and that writer didn’t have to rub my spinelessness in.  I know that, because I am not earning enough now that I’m back in school full time, I will always question the soundness of my decision.  Sigh.  Never mind because, right then and there, a bulb lit: for the longest time, I’ve been longing to nurture a music group and this situation seemed serendipitous.  I made a deal with them: I told Ekang I’d reduce my fee if

  1. They make me an honorary member of Arkaira.
  2. I will be their official trainer and conductor.

She seemed happy, although I think it was more for the money that will remain in their account than for my volunteering.  Tee hee.  Up to this day, though, I still don’t know if she took my first condition seriously.

I’m not going to reveal my training method in this post (perhaps in a future post), which is a synthesis of 30 years of Music training (I started out young), 21 years of teaching non-singers to sing together and the amalgam of everything I’ve learned in theatre, dance, psychology, science, and even sports (running and boxing).  Let’s just say it’s pretty grueling.  It requires energy and focus.  It also touches on metaphysical concepts since I believe singing and musicking involve more than the body.  It requires me to constantly think on my feet and take risks.  Being a military man’s daughter, my approach is a lot like training soldiers for battle, I’m afraid, since, besides training them how to sing, my goal is to build up their courage for the performance. This hardly meant that we dove into the process in total seriousness.  We did get quite a few laughs in and, after a while, my students got used to my random shifts from drill sergeant to clown.  Despite the seeming unpredictability of my moods during rehearsals, they are, in fact, calculated moves, always done with a purpose in mind, and never capricious.

Arkaira was made up of 15 budding singers, meaning they were non-singers who loved to sing and had good voices.   It was hardly unexpected that majority of them were musically illiterate and so expecting them to sight-read was out of the question.  It left me the option of teaching them by rote, but this meant giving them a quite a bit of ear training in the 3 weeks we had. 

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I’ll say a bit about each of my singers.

SOPRANO

ekang.jpgEkang: A smart nut. A loony bundle of energy. I had to restrain her during the performance because she would sing faster than the pace I set.  She’s my BIO 1 classmate and I always tell her, “If you can grasp the workings of the electron transport system, you can get this melody!”

cachi.jpgCachi: She can be kooky.  She can be serious.  This girl was able to sing a high a-flat after spending a whole morning bent down, trying to find her head tone.  Talk about determination. She almost quit, though, saying she had to find another reason for staying since it didn’t make her happy.  I hope she stayed because it made her happy in the end.

nikka.jpgNikka: Poker-faced and almost bored-looking.  She suddenly came to life onstage with her 100-watt smile.  A real surprise.  Another surprise was her talkativeness and honesty during our jeepney ride from UP to Katipunan.  I knew, despite her shy demeanor, that she had the strength to endure my method because of the things she shared.

allie.jpgAllie: Her outfit one day reminded me of the cheese flavored snack so I started calling her Mr. Pringles.  Cute as a button, I found it hard to jolt her (a.k.a. shout at her) but had to because she had crazy eyes while singing (a.k.a. she would look around instead of focusing on me while I conducted).

ALTO

grace.jpgGrace: She lent me her havaianas when the heel of my shoe broke before the competition so I ended up wearing very expensive slippers on stage.  She had the sniffles 2 days before the competition.  I caught her bug and spent the day before it shivering in bed with the flu. 

faye.jpgFae: A real puzzle at first.  She appeared sullen sometimes but I really liked her spunk.  In the end, she opened up and I appreciated it since her sassiness was one of the things from which I drew strength.  She made it a point that I notice that she’s been recording and practicing her part which really cracked me up inside.

greta.jpgGreta: Sharp ears but tentative.  She wavered at the beginning of “Kumukutitap” and looked like she was about to faint.  But I saw the exact moment her eyes brightened and her face lit up, and I knew she allowed herself to be part of the music at last.

val.jpgVal Con: She sang tenor in 2 of 3 songs and learned their part enthusiastically.  I coined her “hermaphrodite”.  (Yes, I’m a meany.)  After the first rehearsal, she told me: “So this is what it feels like to be a Glee Club member.”  My rejoinder: “Just you wait.  That wasn’t even half of it.”

TENOR

james.jpgJames:  A natural tenor.  I had to keep reminding him to push down his shoulders to keep from tensing up.  He had a constant smile which always easily returned after a scolding.  

anjo.jpgAnjo: This one reminded me so much of my best friend.  They had the same hearty laugh. His stuffed-toy appearance also made it hard for me to push him, but he was always ready to laugh again afterwards which I took as a sign of forgiveness. 

He proudly stood in front of the large choir at the end of the competition, a mistake since he didn’t know the lyrics to UP Naming Mahal.

chirstian.jpgChristian: Quiet and serious-looking.  I had to woo this one to smile during our performance which he gave grudgingly, it seemed, in the end.  You never know what he’s thinking since his expression never changes.

BASS

ralph.jpgRalph: He was the unwitting comic-relief on the very first day of training.  His laughter always made me laugh and I enjoyed seeing him happy.  On the last few days, he couldn’t focus because of his upcoming thesis submission and I had to ask him, “Are you mentally present?”, to which he would honestly reply, “Not really.” 

I learned on the day of the competition that his thesis deadline was moved yet again.  Yipee!

edpat.jpgEdpat: He had a stare that never wavered.  He was mostly quiet but you can feel him thinking. He approached me with honesty and told me that he gets rattled whenever I look at him sternly, this after I gave them a scolding on stage on our first technical rehearsal.  I thought it was very brave. 

john-jay.jpgJohn Jay: He had the sharpest ears of all basses.  He confused me, though.  I had the impression that he was an extrovert but as time passed, he turned out to be quite the opposite.  He receives distinction for having 2 very obvious booboos during the performance.  There he was sincerely singing to the crowd after I had told the group time and again to stare only at me.  I had to madly gesture at him before I started the second song – a sort of non-verbal scolding. The other happened after the end of African Noel.  Unexpectedly, and in his excitement, I imagine, he raised his arm at the end and was the only one to do so. All of this caught on tape.      

george.jpgGeorge: The rocker-intellectual.  He’s the anti-rocker, actually, because you wouldn’t know he was one from his serious demeanor.  He over-thinks while singing and misses his pitches because of it.  This got me into a pretty pickle because I would always tell the choir: “You must be thinking singers! Think while you sing!”, then a few beats later would turn and spot him over-thinking and say, “Stop thinking! Just sing it!” Ay-ay-ay. How I hated the inconsistency.

HONORARY CHOIR MEMBERS

francis.jpgFrancis:  He designed the group’s African sablay-over-white attire.  My singers’ costume rocked the stage, and at one point, our turn-the-sablay maneuver made the audience cheer.  I was so thrilled that I blanked out on the pitches of African Noel and had to be corrected by Val Con.  Whee.

I have to mention Sir Ozaeta and Sir Mata who sat beside me during the competition. They cracked me up with their comments that went straight for the jugular.  They were pretty fair, though, and would be the first to admit when a choir was doing well.  Their tandem reminded me so much of the 2 hilarious critic muppets, Mr. Waldorf and Statler, who sat in the side balcony while heckling the Muppet Show.  sir-o-and-m.jpg

At one point, I heard Sir Mata softly singing the Latin version of “O, Come All Ye Faithful” while one of the competing choirs was singing the English version.  Not bad.

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RECAPITULATION:

December 15, 2007 (11:30 A.M.)

I’m near the end of my first account of my experience with UP Arkaira.  As with all recapitulations in the sonata form, we go back to the main themes presented earlier: that of my flu and my need to write about this before the lid on my memory of it drops.  I still have the flu, and, a day later, I’m still writing and remembering, remembering and writing.   But, of course, the recapitulation is not an exact repetition of the exposition.  My variation would be my thoughts of the future.  They have “Haraya”, a yearly college anniversary celebration, coming up this February and Sir Ozaeta told me that he’d like the choir to present a song.  I’m looking forward to this but I have to wait and see if my singers are up to it. Last night, as some of them and I munched on our burgers and fries (and all the food they had to give up for 3 weeks), I broached the subject of continuing what we started and even possibly have the group sing at my thesis presentation.  Val Con, Ekang, Cachi and Fae seemed quite excited and I hope that feeling stays on. 

A recapitulation signals the end of a sonata’s section. 

I hope that this end only speaks of this post and not of my involvement with UP Arkaira.   I’ve never encountered a non-music college that is so into music. They have a piano in their college secretary’s office, for pete’s sake — I think that says a lot.  Maybe I’ve found kindred spirits there: me with my fascination with architecture; and they, with their love for music.  

The results of the Carolfest will be announced on December 19, during UP’s annual Lantern Parade. (Yipee!) I hope we place because last night my singers were phenomenal.    

Congratulations, choir.

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Greetings, Dear Students, from Cabsy

eyeapl.jpgI’ve decided to say hello to my students, both current and former, who have dropped by: 

Val Con of UP Arkaira and ICA. – She was one of my most interesting and smartest students at ICA.  She sat in the second row, along the aisles, I think, and I never felt her attention waver during class.  The first time I met her, she sat in lotus position in class — a no-no with other teachers, but I let her continue sitting this way because her courage to do so made me smile.  I remember, I noticed the one time she let her legs dangle to the floor because she seemed deep in thought and it bothered me so much I couldn’t focus on my lesson.  I guess there are students from which you draw strength while you stand vulnerable in front of 40 others.  Val was one of those students. 

(I haven’t thanked you for Arkaira.Thank you, Val, for Arkaira. 

Nina Gonzalesa former ICA student and Glee Club member who’s currently my voice student.  Sometimes you meet other souls with whom you form a deep bond.  Nina, though many years younger than I, is one of those souls.  She is the only student who had the guts to scold me for letting my anger get the best of me after the death of my father.  I was profoundly hurt when the Glee Club members, who shed tears after I had left ICA, didn’t bother to be there for me during the lowest point in my life.  Nina had lots to say about this and spoke beyond her 17 years.   She is one of the strongest people I know, and I love her.

I might be free for our lessons in January.  I’ll let you know, dearie.

Roxanne, a.k.a. Babsy, a.k.a. RoSanne, a former student and Glee Club member and current YM chat mate. Roxanne and I can talk for hours.  The other day she said hello via YM and said she can talk for 20 minutes — we said good night 2 hours later.  What do we talk about?  Nothing and everything.  Roxanne and I hold each others’ juiciest gossip in the strictest confidence, and she was the first student to whom I ever dared reveal my anti-teacher cussing side.  She started calling me Cabsy after I made a typo calling her RoSanne, and both names just stuck like crazy glue. 

All I can say, RoSanne, is: Shhh…. 😀

It delights me to know that my students do drop by from time to time.  Make Cabsy smile: if you don’t have a blog but have dropped by, let me know.  Tell me what you think.  Or not.  Knowing you checked this blog out will be enough to make me happy.

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. 

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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.

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.