A singer is a human wind instrument. The air in your lungs comes out through the wind pipe and vibrate the vocal folds when you sing. Your body is like a straw. If you bend the straw, the air doesn’t go through. So you need to maintain a good frame with your body to support your voice when you sing. You do that by having good posture.
Whenever we think of good posture, we think of a person standing rigidly with chest sticking out too much, lower back arching inwards excessively and knees that are locked. This is actually bad posture because the body is out of alignment. When the body is out of alignment, it creates tension throughout the body and it will affect the quality of our singing voice.
Other examples of bad posture: chin tucked into the neck/”texting” neck, rounded (slumped forward) shoulders, chest in a low position/arched inwards.
Good Posture = Strong Frame
Good posture for singing when standing is:
- feet shoulder-width apart
- soft knees
- chest high (but not rigid like military attention)
- looking forward
Imagine there’s a line running down your ear, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle.
A good trick to do is to pull on a strand of your hair at the top of your head like you’re a puppet. Feel your spine straighten, chest lifting up and looking forward.
Good posture for singing when sitting is:
- feet planted on the ground
- chest high (sternum lifted)
- looking forward
- a line running down your ear, shoulder, hip
Sitting on the edge of the chair will keep you in a good posture because you’re not tempted to lie back against the chair.
Vocal Anatomy Explanations for Good Posture
I want you to really understand why you need to have good posture when you sing.
If you’d rather take my word for it, then skip this section. If, however, you enjoy learning the technical aspects of vocal anatomy, read on.
Let’s start with our diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle in our core that separates the guts (stomach, intestines, liver etc) from our lungs. It lowers when we breathe in and rises up when we exhale/speak/sing. When we’re breathing in, the diaphragm lowers and creates space for the lungs to expand. The difference between the air pressure outside our body and inside our lungs makes the air go into our mouth, through the trachea/wind pipe and into our lungs. The rib cage also expands to create more room for the lungs to expand. (Imagine two balloons filling up with air). When we start to sing, the diaphragm rises up and makes the air in our lungs travel outwards through the wind pipe. The vocal folds/cords will adduct (come together) at this point to block the air coming out of the lungs. With enough subglottic pressure (the air pressure under the vocal folds), the air will push open the vocal folds. The vocal cords will then vibrate at the frequency of the pitch that we’re singing – making the sound!
When you slouch or stand/sit in a bad posture, your rib cage won’t be able to expand fully and your diaphragm won’t be able to lower fully. This means your lungs won’t have enough room to expand. And that means you won’t be able to breathe in enough air – making you go out of breath quickly. And when you try to sing, the air will be have a hard time coming out through the wind pipe to vibrate the vocal folds. This will either make you sing out of tune and/or creating tension in your throat – making your voice hoarse.
Stand Tall Like You’re Being Pulled By a String Attached to the Top of Your Head
Think of posture as the foundation of your singing technique. If your posture falls apart, the other areas of your singing will fall apart as well.
I hope now you’re convinced that singing in a good posture is the way to go. If you find this post useful, share it with someone!
Benny Ng is a master singing teacher/vocal coach in Sydney since 2011. He writes articles on singing on his blog (blog.singnowstudio.com).