There are so many things to think about when creating your best possible singing voice. Many of us would just like to relax and sing our hearts out but, if you want to do your best, it is important to lay the groundwork for a healthy, beautiful voice.
Your voice is your instrument and it needs to be adjusted and supported just like a piano or guitar in order for it to perform properly.
Of the key components to beautiful singing, proper singing posture is of utmost importance. Like tuning an instrument, your voice can benefit by making some adjustments to your posture.
And, with an understanding of why and how proper posture affects your voice, you will naturally improve your singing and achieve the potential your voice has to offer.
Let’s Start With My Simple Posture Experiment
I often have my students perform this experiment. It gives an example of how proper singing posture can actually be heard:
- Step 1: Sit in a chair with your legs crossed.
- Step 2: Lower your head to your knees
- Step 3: Take as full a breath as you can and sing out a note, holding it as long as you can while in this bent position
- Step 4: Stand, take another breath and sing the same note
Notice the difference in the two vocalizations. My students are always amazed at how much easier and better sounding it is to sing while standing up.
Although the exercise is slightly extreme (you would never actually sing while bending over your crossed legs) it gives you a sense of how much space you need to take a good breath for singing.
What Is Proper Singing Posture?
In very succinct terms, the best posture for singing is the following:
- Stand with feet hip distance apart
- Knees naturally positioned, not locked
- Shoulders relaxed, back and down
- Chest lifted
- Chin parallel to the floor
- Abdomen relaxed
- Arms relaxed, by your side
- Facial muscles relaxed
- Body balanced in frame
To understand why this posture is so important, you must examine each element of the stance.
Starting at the Bottom…Your Feet
What do your feet have to do with your singing? Your feet are what provide the root to your balance. Proper posture is supported with good balance. You can check your balance once your shoulders are back and down, your chin level and your feet planted firmly shoulder distance apart.
Lean forward onto your toes then rock back onto your heels. Finally, settle in between when you feel your body balance comfortably. It helps to repeat this exercise several times to find the “sweet spot” for perfect balance.
This is how you should stand when you sing.
Doing so allows your skeletal support to work naturally, gives your breathing tools room to expand and keeps body aligned.
Keeping that Blood Flowing…Check Your Knees!
As you sing, your body keeps working to support your voice. Blood flow is part of that support. When you are standing, if you lock your knees, meaning you push them back, you restrict the blood flow.
With compromised blood flow, you run the risk of fainting. Years ago, I witnessed a vocalist faint and fall right off the back of the risers.
Luckily, someone was there to catch her but I always remind my students to check their knees. It is a good habit to practice.
How Does Tension in Your Posture Affect Your Voice?
Along with allowing adequate space for your breath, proper singing posture will encourage a relaxed stance. In contrast, when you stand with your shoulders slightly up and forward, as many nervous singers do, this creates tension in your neck and shoulders.
This kind of tension does not allow the air to flow freely through the vocal chords. It causes your abdomen and back to curve slightly reducing the necessary air intake area. And, the tension riddled area takes away some of the muscle energy that should be available for producing your voice. Lastly, this posture creates an out of alignment frame.
Conversely, standing with your shoulders relaxed and down your back releases the tension in your neck. It puts your frame in alignment and calls on your deeper postural muscles to work properly instead of utilizing some of your vocalizing muscles for support.
Proper alignment is important for singing as well as good health. As Karin O’Connor explains in this video:
She stresses the need for proper alignment when singing as well as sitting or standing and provides a very good exercise in which you lay on the floor to find your natural alignment.
Is Your Chest Lifted?
To allow for the maximum amount of air intake, your chest needs to be comfortably lifted. Not pushed out so you arch your back, but the lift that happens naturally when you roll your shoulders back and down.
In Katarina H.’s posture exercise video, she focuses on strengthening the chest muscles and keeping the chest open:
This exercise will help your posture and alignment plus condition your chest, abdomen, and back for maximum air intake.
What About the Chin?
You will also notice with the release of tension in your shoulders and the straightening of your back, your facial muscles can relax and your chin will rise naturally.
Having your chin in the correct position for singing allows for an unobstructed flow of air. Try singing with your chin down and you’ll realize how difficult it is to get the necessary airflow and support needed for a beautiful tone.
Relax That Belly
Many novice singers think the strength in their voice comes from their abdomen or belly. By tightening the belly, they believe they will be able to sing louder and last longer.
However, the strength in their voice comes from their diaphragm. Using the diaphragm gives control over the air passing through the vocal chords. Your abdomen needs to stay relaxed.
It may seem like a fine line however if you tense up your abdomen, you’ll find tightening happening in your chest and neck muscles. This will restrict the proper flow of air.
As you practice, be mindful of relaxing your belly while allowing your diaphragm to expand and contract. Soon, it will come naturally.
Free Flowing Arms
As you bring your shoulders back and down, allow your arms to hang freely with your hands at your sides. This position contributes to your balance and alignment. Avoid singing with your arms crossed in front of you.
Doing so disrupts your even blood flow and decreases the chest area needed for ample breathing. Additionally, the body language present with crossed arms evokes defiance as opposed to confidence.
Let your audience experience a balanced, confident singer whose arms gracefully frame her stance.
Is There Tension in Your Face?
Your mouth is the final stop for your vocalization. It can shape a tone, affect intonation, affect enunciation and compress the vocal folds. If your facial muscles are not relaxed, your mouth will not work at its vocalizing capacity.
Tight muscles will restrict the jaw, tongue and throat. Be sure, as you set up your posture to sing, you visualize all the tension flowing out of your facial muscles.
Understanding Your Breath Mechanics
When you take a breath in to sing, your lungs, diaphragm, and belly expand. This full intake of air needs room. If you are sitting in a slouched position, your diaphragm cannot expand to its fullest extent.
If it can’t expand, you are not getting the full support available for singing. Standing tall with your shoulders back, down and relaxed, will give you all the room your diaphragm, lungs and belly need.
Additionally, having this room to expand, also allows your diaphragm to control your exhale as best as possible giving you the breath support needed for beautiful tone, loud or quiet.
Comfort is Key
As with most activities, being comfortable allows you to completely relax. Let’s compare singing with playing the piano. A pianist must rely on his entire body for his hands to freely roam the keyboard.
If his shoulders are tense, the tension runs down his arms and through his fingers and restricts the actions of his hands. Additionally, a pianist cannot expect to endure a long playing piece if his hands are tense…he must be relaxed and comfortable.
This comfort allows him to focus completely on playing the piano. Similarly, for a vocalist, a relaxed, comfortable singing stance allows the body and mind to focus completely on producing the best sound possible. Give your instrument the most relaxed, comfortable stance for your best vocalizing.
Can Proper Singing Posture Boost Your Confidence?
We all need confidence when singing. Maybe you have observed a timid vocalist who stood with her head slightly lowered, her shoulders curved forward and her eyes cast down?
Even if her voice was not very strong, imagine the difference her performance would have cast if she stood with her chin level, eyes forward, chest up and shoulders back. She would be commanding the stage.
You can certainly boost your confidence with proper posture. It will allow you to focus one hundred percent on your voice.
It will lift your chest giving your diaphragm the room needed to support proper breath control. And, your gaze will be forward and strong connecting you to your audience with confidence.
Now to Sing!
It may seem like so many issues to remember but once you take notice of your stance and start to implement these posture adjustments you will hear a difference in your voice and your body will feel better too!
Give yourself time but stick to it and you will be happily surprised with the results.