I started down what I call my “journey towards healing” back in 2005, when I began to try to find answers to what was becoming an ongoing struggle with chronic muscle pain. I began to pursue different movement modalities, such as Pilates, Yoga and Feldenkrais, because I wanted to get back to a pain-free life.
In one of my other “lives,” however, I am a singer and a songwriter. I began performing in public about 12 years ago and now I gig fairly regularly in small clubs, coffeehouses and concerts around the Northeast.
Over the years, I took vocal lessons here and there (including a stint with a voice teacher who keeps Jon Bon Jovi’s vocal cords in tip-top shape!). I definitely improved over time, but I always had trouble with straining, with reaching certain notes and generally feeling an ease and overall power in my vocals. After awhile, I figured I had gotten as good as I could get — and would have to do the best with the voice I had.
Since getting more deeply involved in movement work, however (including becoming a comprehensively certified Pilates instructor), I have experienced an amazing transformation in my voice: It has become more powerful, more tension-free, open and expressive. I’ll often sing in my car while driving home after a Pilates or other movement class (trying to ignore what other drivers looking at me on the road must be thinking) and feel pleasantly surprised at how I can suddenly belt out a song that’s on the radio, including finding notes that I couldn’t quite reach in the past.
Singing comes from the whole body — especially the core
Over the past couple of years I have really immersed myself in studying anatomy and movement — and now I truly understand that singing (and speaking, for that matter) is not just about the voice box, or the larynx. Singing comes from your entire body, especially your core — and by that I mean your pelvic floor muscles, your deep abdominals, your deep spinal muscles as well as your diaphragm. Working on connecting to your core muscles through movement work, therefore, can significantly affect and improve your voice.
Release tension from your body and your voice has room to soar
Another thing I’ve learned is how much tension in your body — through tight muscles and shallow breathing — can restrict your voice from reaching its full potential. Your body needs to have a dynamic sense of spring, of bounce, of movement, rather than a static, tense, frozen stillness. Working on that, through breathwork, through gentle stretches, through movement, through alignment work, can give your voice room to soar to new heights.
Beyond voice lessons: Pilates and movement work can do wonders for your singing
Of course voice lessons are an important part of improving your singing, especially if you are a beginner looking to gain confidence in your vocals and how to express yourself with your voice.
But for both beginner, intermediate and advanced singers looking to improve their vocals, I highly recommend getting involved in some kind of movement work that focuses on posture and alignment; on releasing tension; on improving body awareness; on breath work; and on increasing core strength.
There are many movement modalities that can address those issues, particularly if done in a private or small group setting, such as Pilates, Yoga, Franklin Method, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, Hanna Somatics, Gyrotonics, Body Mind Centering and Bartenieff Fundamentals.
The great thing is that at the same time you’re improving your vocal strength and freedom, you’ll also be doing wonderful things for your body as a whole. It’s all connected, y’all! 🙂
I’ll come back to this topic very soon…with specific tips and tricks for opening up your voice potential through movement!