Rebecca Sherburn - voice expert

Standing Alignment

Put yourself in the right position if you want to sing standing up

In this video, Dr. Sherburn will teach you the right position to sing standing up. Get tarted with the right posture!

Released on November 1, 2017

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hello. We're going to talk about physical alignment today. I'm Dr. Rebecca Sherburn, the Director of Vocal Studies at Chapman University in Southern California. And this is the second in a series of videos called "How the Voice Works" sponsored by Virtual Sheet Music.

If you've ever studied yoga, the language I use to assist us with alignment will be familiar to you. It goes like this: head over heart, heart over pelvis, pelvis over feet. To feel these alignments, we're going to use an imaginary plumb line which starts at the ceiling right above your head, ah, there it is. It passes from the center of the head to the center of the heart. That's head over heart. Then, by softening my knees, it passes from the center of the heart, through the center of the pelvis. That's heart over pelvis. From the center of the pelvis, the plumb line passes behind, or at the back of the knees, to an imaginary platform that I create with my feet because they are hip width apart. That's pelvis over feet. So except for the knees, the plumb line goes straight through the center of the body, not behind it.

Backing up to a wall, flattening out the middle of the back and the neck with the hands straight back and the feet close together, puts the plumb line behind me. I'm leaning back and that's really not good alignment for singing. With the plumb line passing through the center of the body, the skeleton actually bears much of our weight, leaving the abdominal muscles free for us to use in exhalation, which is singing. So, let's get a little more detail about each of these three alignments, from the head down.

The head actually weighs about 10 pounds. It's heavier in the back than it is in the front because the sinus is hollow. And this can cause the head to tip back, like this. That puts a lot of strain on the area where the vocal folds are, and it can actually prevent us from singing high. So we don't want the head to tip back. We want the head to sit on the neck in such a way that we can look evenly across the horizon like this. Straight across.

There's a relationship between the position of the head and the sternum. This bone that our ribs are fused to in the front. To feel this relationship, take your index finger and place it on your chin, and your thumb and place it on the sternum. You might feel like your head is slightly down and your sternum is slightly up. But for most of us, that is the correct position. The sternum should always stay high in classical singing, whether we're breathing in or singing out. If it falls, it can cause a collapse of our alignment that looks like this, low chest, head tips back. And we don't want that. That messes up head over heart.

So, to get the heart over the pelvis, I just soften my knees. They're not really bent, they're just soft. And that should allow the pelvis to come into a neutral position and to line right up underneath my heart. The higher the heels we were, the more bend there has to be in the knees. In flats, the knees are just soft. But in heels, they're bent and the weight shifts back slightly onto the heels. If my knees are locked back, there could be a sharp curve in my lower back and a forward bend in my abdomen and we don't want that. That won't work. Likewise, one can sway the pelvis too far forward in this kind of skater-dude, cowboy position. It's fun, but it's not what we want. This lowers the sternum and contracts the abdomen. So neither of those bends of the pelvis will allow a good deep breath for singing.

Pelvis over feet, is really about the position and attitude of the feet. Feet have to have strength. They need to be alive to support us. They should feel like tripods anchored with weight on three parts of the foot, the heel, and the outside of the toes. Alive little tripods underneath you. So try this, take a small jump and look at where your feet land. They just automatically went hip-width apart. Perhaps with one foot forward, very much alive, strong. You have to feel them underneath you, rooted into the ground.

The main issue with the feet is that they cannot be too close together and both feet need to bear equal weight. If the feet are close together, the muscles of the abdomen have to work to keep us balanced. And we use the abdominal wall for steady exhalation, which is singing. So, we don't want postural muscles, abdominal muscles, tightening up, holding us in some awkward position because our feet are too close together.

So again, let's draw the imaginary plumb line from the ceiling. See it? Through the head, to the heart. From the heart by softening the knees through the pelvis. From the pelvis, the plumb line passes behind, or at the back of the knees to an imaginary platform created by my feet, because they're hip-width apart with weight on both feet equally.

When I'm in alignment, I feel heavy in the lower part of the body, rooted, grounded. And I feel light and flexible with the upper part of the body. And that's exactly what we want for good singing. So as you breathe to sing, think about plumb line alignment. Happy Singing. Bye.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Rebecca Sherburn - host, on November 27, 2017 @11:30 am PST
Thank you for the encouraging comments. It is my pleasure to share this information. Please let me know if you have anything to add!
Stephen Coker on November 26, 2017 @4:32 pm PST
These videos that you've made are incredibly helpful. The language is fresh and delivered in such an engaging way. Thanks so very much!
Beth * VSM MEMBER * on November 6, 2017 @3:39 pm PST
Thank you SO MUCH for these voice videos by Rebecca Sherburn. Not only does Dr. Sherburn have a beautiful voice herself, but she has a gifted way of teaching. She makes learning about the voice, position, etc. an easily understood and enjoyable experience. I have great hopes of learning to sing correctly and beautifully. I am certainly looking forward to more voice videos.
Fabrizio Ferrari - moderator and CEO, on November 6, 2017 @4:58 pm PST
Thank you Beth for your kind comment! I am so glad you like these new videos. Yes, Dr. Sherburn is a very talented teacher, and we all look forward for her next videos! Stay "tuned"!
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