Your body is your instrument. How well do you understand it and shape it? This will determine how good a singer you will become.
Know your instrument
Some people treat the voice as a mystery, but it's not. It's strange why many people, even singers, know so little about it. Understanding your instrument will give you a roadmap, so you won't take strange turns and damage it.
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Time and again I've see massive improvements in how my students sounded after they started taking yoga classes. A lifesaver, a voice changer. Learn about yoga, Alexander technique, and other bodywork that will improve your voice.
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speaking about bodywork
I am going to tell you fair and square: you won't even get close to your full potential as a singer if you don't do a form of bodywork like yoga.
Understanding + bodywork = mastery
There is no way around bodywork. If you want to sing, if you want to use your voice in the best way, and effortlessly: your voice is your body. You have to know what your body is doing AND you have to have a properly functioning body.
Unfortunately, in most cases - unless you made it your life's goal to learn about your body - people don't have that knowledge. And most people don't have a body free of tension.
I myself have in the past shied away from bodywork. I prioritized singing lessons without working on the entire instrument. Trying to make sounds, do vocal exercises and hope for the best. Hoping that my body would cooperate without me really knowing how to operate it. No chance.
Because that's like trying to play guitar on just strings and no body, or like an electric guitar that isn't plugged. Like banging your head against the wall if you want to go from one room to the other.
Bodywork is so important that I usually prioritize it over singing if I have a bad day mentally or physically. It's actually better to do for example a yoga session in which you may or may not end up singing, than to sing with a tense body.
I see it on my students all the time. Whenever I work on their body, which is all the time - even minor changes in posture can make major improvements in the voice. In time, with more practice and developing awareness, they can start telling me what happens when they sing. Whether it works well or not.
Awareness takes time. Most people can't expect to pay attention to their body behavior and notice everything immediately. Most people just feel a general sensation of oohhh that worked well / relaxed / difficult. But they can't really say: now I tensed my neck or had not enough space between my jaws. It takes a bit of brainwashing to get them there.
Is it in the dark? Getting to know your instrument
The reason so many people love singing but think they can't do it, is because we don't have intuition for vocal function. The human vocal mechanism (larynx, lungs, diaphragm, resonances) are all internal. Some will refer to them as in 'in the dark'. Can't see them, so we don't know what's going on, right?
Actually, some singers don't know how they do it and just sing with intuition. They don't understand.
But fortunately, the voice is not in the dark. We know how the voice works and we're getting smarter about that every year. When you realize what the voice is doing and how, then you for sure know what's necessary for singing and what's not.
Actually getting to do it, is a different matter, because we have habits. But without the body awareness we wouldn't know where to start.
About the author
I'm an opera singer and (online) voice teacher, based in Amsterdam. It took me more than a decade to overcome my share of mental and physical issues and reach a professional level as a singer. Because of this background, and my 10+ years of teaching experience, I believe I can speed up your learning curve as a singer.
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Eye-openers, tips and stories. Also content that I don't publish on my website.