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:
- Do you suffer from tension headaches?
- Does your lower back hurt?
- Is it hard to reach straight up over your head?
- Do have shoulder or neck pain?
- 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.
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).
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!
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.
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!
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.
Your chest should be lifted, but without strain. Nothing special.
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.
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)
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.
Now that you’ve got your posture worked out, it’s time to start working on your breath support.