How Proper Singing Posture Helps You Be a Better Singer

How Proper Singing Posture Helps You Be a Better Singer

If you’ve ever taken a voice lesson, a choir class, or even just spoken to one of those teachers, you’ve probably been advised to “use proper singing posture”.  When you were a kid, it probably went in one ear and out the other.  As an adult, well, fixing a lifetime of bad posture is easier said than done.   

In either case, you probably thought, why is it so important anyway? The answer is manifold, but as it pertains to singing, it’s about the physical shape your body takes and therefore its ability to breathe. 

If you’re like most people in today’s technological world, you probably spend a lot of time staring at some kind of screen. Now, if you think that doesn’t have an effect, I want you to answer a few questions: 

  1. Do you suffer from tension headaches?
  2. Does your lower back hurt?
  3. Is it hard to reach straight up over your head?
  4. Do have shoulder or neck pain?
  5. Is your breathing generally shallow?

Did you answer yes to any of those questions? Then, you just might suffer from bad posture.  So, let’s unpack that a little and then we’ll get to why that is important for singing- because if your body is generally not feeling well, your voice is generally not feeling well. 

The Spine

Good posture starts with the spine. The spine has 4 sections and therefore 4 natural curves (not straight as some teachers and voice coaches advise).  It is built so that it is perfectly capable of holding itself up without the use of muscles.

When your spine is out of whack (either too curvy or too straight), your body has to recruit various muscles to hold it and the skull up.  That’s were all that tension in the neck, back, and shoulders comes from.

And then, it gets compounded when the head is out of alignment.  For every inch that your head is too far forward, the stress of its weight doubles. The average human head is 10-11 lbs.  You do the math. That’s not good news for your neck and shoulders.

Breathing and the Spine

So, this is where it gets important for singing. Breath is the power of the voice.  You’ve heard that you need good breath support to sing well.  Well, you can’t really have that without proper singing posture.

When air enters the lungs, the volume of the air must be displaced in the body.  The ribs, abdomen, and back need to expand to allow that to happen.  With your spine in perfect order, your body has the optimal shape to allow the full expansion of all those things and air can fill the lungs completely.

You can imagine what happens if that shape changes. Sure, if you reduce the space to expand in the front, the back can and will expand, but the posterior rib cage is only just so flexible.

Not so good for breathing. And not so good for breath management or support when it comes to singing (which is what brought you here in the first place, right?)

Hopefully by now, you are convinced that the alignment of your body is important.  And if you answered yes to any of those questions, you have a real vested interest in fixing your posture irrespective of singing anyway.   So, what is good posture?

I like to think of it as the 7 Points of Proper Posture.  What can I say? I like alliteration. (You can download a nice little cheat sheet at the end of this post!!)

We’ll start with our foundation (feet) and work our way up to the top (head).

Why is Proper Posture So Important to Be a Good Singer. Download Proper Singing Posture Cheat Sheet. 7 Points of Proper Posture #singing #vocaltechnique #singingtips #posture #breathcapacity #breathingtechnique #breathsupport #backpain

7 Points of Proper Singing Posture

Use these tips to correct your singing posture, increase your breath capacity, improve your breath control, and appear more confident and attractive on stage! Download the Proper Singing Posture Cheat Sheet!

The Feet

Stand with your feet hip width apart.  Don’t lean in any direction- evenly distribute your weight over both of your feet. It may help to have one foot slightly in front of the other. Yogi’s choice. I mean, singer’s choice.

The Knees

Unlock your knees!  Many beginners make the mistake of straightening their legs so much that their knees lock up, especially when they’re nervous (and we’re all a little nervous on stage). Tension in your knees will travel up your body, all the way to your voice.  Bounce a little, just to be sure! 

The Spine

​Never stand with military posture.  This is another rookie mistake.  Your spine was built to hold you up without the aid of muscles.  When you mess with its natural curve, it loses its ability to sustain the weight of your body, putting that responsibility on your muscles (which already have other jobs to do).  This creates instant tension. Your spine should be in a natural curve. 

The Chest

Your chest should be lifted, but without strain. ​Nothing special. 

The Shoulders

This is my favorite way to make sure my shoulders are set right:
Hold your arms out in from of you like you were holding a serving tray, palms up, elbows bent.  Keeping your elbow next to your body, move your hands away from each other as far as you can.  Did you feel your chest broaden and your shoulders rotate back? Go ahead and let your hands down to your sides now.  Just make sure to keep your shoulders and chest where they are. 

The Hands

Speaking of your hands, they should fall gently at your sides along the outside seam of your clothing.  If the clothes you are wearing right now don’t have any seams, use your imagination. (haha) 

The Head

Set your ears directly over your shoulders.  This allows the weight of your head to be supported evenly by all the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and back.  Your chin should be parallel to the floor.  Don’t let your head tip forward or jut outward.  That puts a ton of stress on those neck muscles- like double or triple the weight of your head!! So yeah, don’t do that.

Next Steps:

Now that you’ve got your posture worked out, it’s time to start working on your breath support.

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Improving Breath Support and the Myth of “Singing From Your Diaphragm”

Improving Breath Support and the Myth of “Singing From Your Diaphragm”

3 Mistakes You are Making that are Sabotaging your Breath Support. Learn how to improve your breath support. #diaphragmatic breathing #breathefromyoudiaphragm #vocaltechnique #singingtips #singing #breathingtechnique #breathsupport #ecourse #classicalvoice #classicalsingingEven if you’re just beginning your singing journey, you probably already know that breathing is the power of your voice.  You may have heard advice like you need to “sing from your diaphragm” for improving breath support. 

Let me let you in on a little secret.

Contrary to what you may have heard, human beings are incapable of breathing without their diaphragm. Ergo, you are already “singing from your diaphragm.”  Whether or not you are using it efficiently is another matter. which I’ll get into a little later.

So, if “sing from your diaphragm” isn’t THE answer, what do you need for better breath support?

First we must ask:

What exactly is breath support?

Having breath support means producing consistent and healthy breath pressure.  Breath pressure is created during exhalation as air meets resistance.  This resistance allows you to control your voice in volume, intensity, resonance, keep an even tone, sing in tune, sing without tension much more.  It is the support.

However, this definition of breath support only refers to the exhalation- so that’s only half the equation on how to achieve it.

Without a full and proper inhalation, a controlled exhalation is practically impossible. 

Now we can ask, “what do you need for improving breath support?”

In short, you need good breathing technique.  Using correct breathing techniques, you will be able to maximize your breath capacity and create that pressure in a way that does not cause tension on your larynx (the structure that houses your vocal chords).

If you are just learning to sing, it pays to take the time to develop proper breathing technique. If you’ve been singing for a while and haven’t paid it much attention, it’s time.

What’s the Diaphragm Got to Do with Breath Support?

If all that is true, then why do people tell you to “sing from your diaphragm,” as if it is the panacea for improving breath support.  The phrase isn’t completely out of left field.

Remember when I said earlier that you have no choice but to “sing from your diaphragm?” That’s because the Diaphragm is the Primary Breathing Muscle. When it contracts, you inhale.  When it relaxes, you exhale.

In normal, everyday speech, you don’t need a whole lot of air to carry out the task.  This means that your breathing apparatus is used to moving pretty minimally.  This very shallow, lazy breathing is called “Costal Breathing” (a.k.a. “chest breathing,” a.k.a. “clavicular breathing”). 

There are 3 things wrong with using Costal breathing for singing.

1. Sucking in Your Stomach When You Inhale.

In costal breathing, your abdominal muscles often contract inward, pushing all your viscera up against your diaphragm.  This stops the diaphragm from descending properly, limiting the lung capacity- which means even though you are using it, you are not using it efficiently to maximize your breath capacity. This is what your choir director was trying to tell you by saying “breathe from your diaphragm”.

2. Not Fully Expanding the Rib Cage

Due to our lazy normal breathing, the rib cage is used to expanding in only one direction, forward/up.

In the case of singing, you want to take a deeper breath than you normally would to speak, so you need to more space to store the air.  The rib cage needs to expand out to the sides and into the back, 3-dimensionally.  However, those areas are just not as flexible from lack of use. 

Your body wants to get the result you want (more air capacity), but it will do what is easiest.  To accommodate all the air needed for singing, the rib cage has to lift high, but it can’t lift high enough. 

3. Lifting the Shoulders

When the lungs inflate, the volume of air has to be displaced in the body.  Your chest is rising, but can’t expand higher, so you lift up your shoulders, searching for more capacity. But the shoulders are not voluminous cavities made to provide space for air.  They are simply trying to get out of the way of your rib cage’s expansion.  Basically, this action is not helping you in your quest for breath capacity or support in any way.

The other major problem with lifting the shoulders to breathe is that it causes discomfort and tension in your voice.  Tension in your voice over long periods of time can lead to many vocal health problems such chronic hoarse voice as well as nodes or even polyps.  Yikes!  You do NOT want to have to deal with those.

Then it’s all exacerbated by poor posture.  It is completely possible for the chest to move independently of the shoulders, but not if you’re hunched over.  Hopefully you’ve read my post on singing posture.  If you haven’t, go take a few minutes to read it now to familiarize yourself on the relationship between posture and breathing.

So far, these problems have mostly been about breath capacity.  What does that mean for breath control? Simply put, if you don’t have enough air when you inhale, you don’t have much to work with when you exhale.  But inhalation is only the first part of breath support. 

The real bread and butter of breath support is controlling the exhalation.

When you are using costal breathing, you aren’t activating all of your breathing muscles. Remember the lack of 3-dimensional expansion? Yeah, that means you are only using 1/4 of your available breathing musculature. 

It’s Time to Make a Change

You may be asking, “So what am I supposed to do instead?”

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrases “take a low breath,” or “take a belly breath.” But those are not specific actions.  Those are the result of physical actions you have to take. 

So, what do you need to do? 

1. Stand with proper singing posture. If you aren’t sure if you have good posture, please read my post and download the cheat sheet to guide you.

2. Allow your abdominal muscles to relax and expand outward during inhalation. This is the most basic tenant of breathing technique.  Once you achieve this, your shoulders pretty much automatically drop out of the equation.This is your basic breathing technique: “Abdominal Breathing”, or Belly Breathing. (And the one I will teach you in my 5-Day Breathing Technique Challenge!)

3. Train your rib cage to expand in 3-Dimensions. This gives you the space to allow for the fullest inhalation.  It also means recruiting all the proper breathing muscles, giving you more control over the exhalation. This is an intermediate breathing technique: “Thoracic Breathing.” 

4. Train yourself to use both #2 and #3 together. This is the Ultimate Breathing Technique: “Appaggio Breathing.”

I want to help you on your journey to improving breath support.  That’s why I have created a free 5 Day Breathing Technique Challenge to get your started!  The 5 Day Breathing Technique Challenge covers 2 of the methods and exercises to help you achieve that 2nd goal. 

Each day covers 1 of the method and exercise and is broken down with step-by-step directions to make it easy to understand and learn (all in about 5 -10 minutes)!  Fill out the form below to join.

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Although I am a certified music and voice teacher, I am not YOUR teacher.  The information on my blog is intended for informational and educational purposes and in no way constitutes advice of any kind. I make no guarantee or promises based on the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of the information represented on my website or products.  This blog is not a substitute for professional advice.  I reserve the right to change the management and content focus of my blog at any time without notice. 

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