Saturday, September 24, 2011

the physical athleticism of our craft

Saturday musings...

As I continue the rehab and recovery process of our near fatal car accident back in June,  I am continually reminded of how physical and athletic the craft of singing truly is.

Our instrument, at its core (no pun intended) is about balance, strength, endurance and presence.  It has to have pliability, elasticity, useable tension and release.  None of this is possible without a consistent and constant reassessing of the physical alignment we move in all day.

You do not need a trauma to recognize something is amiss! Or as dear friend comedian and actor Lewis Black says "something is askew!!!"

More and more, we as singers must release x y and z  and go back to a b c.  This is not going backwards.  This is recognizing the physicality of our instrument needs constant nurturing, recognition and care.

The body is the instrument.  As singers we are athletes.  We are long distance trainers ultimately and we need to know the mechanics of the physicality in order to make sure we have the physical capability to rise to the occasion!!

What are you doing to develop physical endurance? Physical strength? Physical pliability? physical alignment?  breath consistency?  physical balance?

Often I have singers who come in and say their only feedback from an audition is that there isn't consistency.  Guess what?  The voice cannot develop consistency if the body has none.  Period.

The stronger and more developed the body is - the more potential the voice will have to develop the even consistency to sing a full role,  to sing through an orchestra, to perform 8 shows a week.

There are no pat answers.  Your physicality is individual, and your sensibility is unique.  What works for one person may not work for someone else.  Ultimately, the goal is the same but how you get there may be different.

Physical alignment is key: developing clearer behavior in alignment and recognizing where you hold your tensions and how you need to rebuild behavior and release those tensions has to be a continual process.  Stress,  weight loss or gain,  pregnancy, and more affects this. Do NOT ignore the importance of it!  It will be what sets you free or if not taken seriously, will be your demise!

Alignment can range from yoga to Alexander Technique to Feldekrais to Reiki to acupuncture to T'ai Chi to Chi Gong and more.

The breath intensity we need as singers needs to find an athletic cardio component - either passively or actively.  Are you breathing when you work out with weights?  You NEED to.  Are you breathing when you run or jog or walk briskly? Is breath viseral during your day in ANY active activity or in the quiet moments of meditation or stretch?

Are you building strength as you align? Are you making conscious choices through your day to be aware of your physical behavior? Simply, are you IN your body at ALL TIMES?  You need to be. Begin to make a choice to be aware several times a day - while you walk from A to B; while you sit on the train or subway or in the car;

You cannot develop your singer physicality ONLY at your lesson.  If you only think of it while in the studio, it is too late!

Claim that athleticism - do not apologize for it.  Know it shifts each day, and each day we need to be aware of where we are.  Wherever you are BE there.  Stretch from it, breathe from it, do not make excuses and simply claim it.

This leads to behavior and behavior leads to possibilities.  If we have possibilities, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose!


  1. YES! The more physically aware and alive I am, the less I have to think about it in audition and performance. I always took my physical good health for granted until last year, and my convalescence from trauma taught me soooo much.

    I am tempted to answer the question(s) "What are you doing to develop physical endurance? Physical strength? Physical pliability? physical alignment? breath consistency? physical balance?" with... hey I am really trying to ride my bike with NO HANDS... which is oddly enough true but not at all the point. My physical fitness has fed back into my singing practice in a glorious way, and I would thoroughly advise anyone to listen to Susan in this respect!

    Katy Marriott

  2. Thanks, I needed that. I've let up lately on keeping shape and I can feel the negative impact. Time to get the instrument back in line.