Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work with over 60 singers (of all ages, genres and abilities) in 7 different singing workshops in Berlin, Wheaton and Chicago.
Getting to travel around and share my work with musicians is a dream come true for me.
I hesitate to even call it work because it feels more like play!
In TVF workshops and classes we play LOTS of games – theater games, improv games, singing games and games that I make up for a specific purpose.
One of my favorite new games is called “Step Forward.”
Here’s how it’s played:
Everyone stands in a big circle and I read a statement.
If that statement is true for you then you are to step forward towards the center, look around at who else stepped forward and then back go your original spot.
For example, I’ll say things like:
- “Step forward…if you have trouble making it through long phrases.”
- “Step forward…if you often feel your voice isn’t enough.”
- “Step forward…if you care too much about what the audience thinks of you.”
One new twist we added on Saturday in Chicago: the “hotter” the issue or problem is for you, the closer you are to step towards the center.
That was pretty hilarious because there were certain statements where every single person in the room was huddled together (myself included!) in the center like a bunch of penguins trying to stay warm.
I love playing this game because it shows how much we all have in common and how we’re all in it together.
Byron Katie says there are no new stressful thoughts.
When it comes to singing, I say there are no new problems.
And the most common not-new problem for singers is vocal tension in all it’s many manifestations (tension in the throat, jaw, tongue, larynx, neck, etc).
The #1 cause of vocal tension is a system that is out of natural balance.
Let’s dig deeper into what that means by first looking at the dictionary definitions of three words:
System – a set of connected things forming a complex whole (in other words, you – ALL of you!).
Natural – existing in or caused by nature.
Balance – an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
When it comes to natural balance, four-footed land animals have a big advantage over humans. With four surfaces to use for support, balance is no problem.
Think about how easily a table balances.
Now imagine how challenging it would be to balance that same table on just 2 legs.
It’s pretty amazing to think that you are doing just that all day long and in a variety of movements and positions.
Being two-legged has definite advantages – imagine having to use your arms to stay balanced all day long.
Being human would be a lot less cool without our arms free!
However, what we gain in mobility and flexibility as the only full-time two-legged creatures, we lose in stability.
Sir Charles Sherrington, a Nobel laureate and a huge fan of F.M. Alexander’s work said that a human being in the act of standing is constantly at the edge of catastrophe.
(Case in point: think about how hair-raising it is to watch a toddler attempt to walk for the first time!)
This unconscious (and sometimes conscious) fear of falling is our constant companion.
And your system will prevent you from falling AT ANY COST.
For many, it’s a BIG cost – unnecessarily tightening, tensing, overcompensating and using the wrong muscles in an attempt to “hold” themselves up.
They create balance in an unnatural way.
It’s not because they want to do this.
It’s because they don’t know a better way.
It is the rare few that have true natural balance.
This a shame because…
Natural balance is the birthright of every human being.
When you rediscover your natural balance it creates harmony and literally takes the pressure of your body. Once you find it, you won’t want anything else because it feels so wonderful!
Here’s why this is so important for you as a singer:
Any unnecessary tension or tightening in any part of your system will disturb your delicately suspended larynx and the movement of your ribs, both of which are critical to singing with freedom.
Here’s the mind-blowing thing:
The majority of vocal tension issues have very little to do with the voice itself.
In TVF classes and workshops, I use a variety of strategies to help singers find their natural whole-system balance. When that happens, “vocal” tension releases, the sound frees and the “true” singer emerges.
That last part is so important because wouldn’t you rather hear an honest singer than a perfect one?!
That’s something several workshop participants pointed out these past few weeks. One participant commented:
“As you worked with the singer and they became more balanced and fluid in their movements, the quality of their singing become more personal, more authentic and more effortless. I feel like I saw the real them.”
So if you’ve read this far you might be wondering:
- How do I restore my system to its proper balance?
- How I do release tension so my ribs and voice can move freely?
- How do I become more fluid in my movements so the “real” me can come out?
These are questions I address in my newsletter. Join now by signing up to receive our free eBook, Breathing Made Simple.