One of the main reasons a singer’s voice may not be completely free is tension.
Tension often shows up in the singer’s instrument due to old habits, lack of understanding of the singing mechanism, fear, poor alignment in the body, and most often, because of a lack of self awareness and self observation.
This is exactly why one of the main objectives in the voice studio is to get my clients to become more aware of how their muscles are reacting to the commands of the mind. One way is to pay attention to how the body feels when singing, and another is to actually observe the body while singing.
Sometimes, what we think we are doing, is not what we are actually doing. This is why I have a full length mirror in my studio for students to monitor themselves from time to time, and see what I see while I teach and offer suggestions.
But my oh my, do they despise the mirror! I know it feels egotistic to pay so much attention to the mirror or worse, it can make us feel self conscious and uncomfortable. This goes far back in our ways of judging ourselves in society, and I have yet to see a client that does not cringe when I ask them to look in the mirror. Still , this is a challenge worth facing and it is an extremely helpful tool for all singers.
It is equally important to use the mirror as a reference during practices at home. You do not want to become overly dependent on it, but the mirror will help to make sure we you are headed in the right direction.
Here are a few elements to observe when performing a mirror check while singing:
1) Posture alignment
Are you standing comfortably tall? Are the knees flexible and soft?
Are the lower abdominals relaxed during inhalation?
3) Shoulders and Chest
Are the shoulders back and relaxed? Is the chest open and relaxed? Pay close attention especially during inhalation and towards the end of each phrase.
4) Neck, Jaw, Tongue and Lips
Is the neck free to move, the jaw free to open, the tongue relaxed forward and free to pronounce with ease and the lips loose without exaggerated forward motion?
5) Facial Expressions
Are the facial muscles energized yet relaxed? Are your able to pronounce the each word from the song effortlessly? Do your facial expressions go well with the song’s lyrics? Do they go well with the emotions of what you are singing?
I can’t possibly count the amount of times in my voice studio that I have suggested more relaxation in the jaw, shoulders, neck,… and the singers failed to make any adjustments until actually seeing themselves in the mirror. After they get past the weird feelings and shyness associated with looking at themselves in the mirror, there is a flash bulb moment response. The reaction is: “Oh! That’s what you meant!”.
Sometimes, seeing is believing.