Singing is very physical! Singing involves lots of muscles and muscles have memory. SO… It’s very important as we train and sing that we create good and HEALTHY muscle memory. This can help to make singing correctly easier.
Anyone who exercises regularly knows that with continued practice, it gets easier to do your workout routine. The more you work out, the stronger your muscles get. Recently, I had to go through some physical therapy for my shoulder. As we were nearing the end of our time together, my physical therapist started to change up my routine. He said, “We want to fool your muscles”. You see, if my muscles were getting used to 3 sets of 10 reps, and I suddenly did three sets of varying length (10, 11 then 12) it would make my muscles work harder. My muscles had already memorized the pattern and so the workout was becoming easier and easier and he wanted to move me to the next level.
Many times when students come to me, I have to spend a lot of time with them undoing muscle memory, and this makes this difficult for them at first. It’s worth it in the end of course, but in the meantime it can be frustrating. So whenever possible, it’s always best to start out using all the RIGHT muscles and creating a GOOD muscle memory.
Which Muscles Do I Need to Train?
Proper breathing and support are the foundation of singing. If you don’t train yourself to use these muscles for support, you will default to other muscles that are not designed to sustain the stress and pressure of singing.
The muscles in the face (and mouth) have a profound effect on the overall sound you ultimately produce. Tension in the face is almost never helpful. Relaxed facial expressions and vowel shapes help to focus muscle tension where it SHOULD be: with the breathing process. (It looks better too!) Watching yourself sing is a great way to see what you actually do with your face when you sing. Work toward always keeping the lips loose, full, and relaxed. Don’t over shape your vowels; it only adds tension to your lips and face and will have a negative effect on the sound.
Tongue and Throat
Tongue placement is key to helping keep the throat relaxed and enabling a singer to have a relaxed/open sound. Improper tongue placement can jam up the inside of a singer’s mouth and seriously affect the sound. Work toward keeping the tongue relaxed and lying flat in the mouth with the tip of the tongue resting against the back of the bottom teeth.
Muscles Surrounding the Larynx
It’s imperative to learn how to control the position of your larynx. Otherwise it will tend to pull upward in your throat and cause innumerable problems relating to tension, tone quality, voicing, etc. Work to keep the larynx in a neutral position in the throat. This is tricky for many since it is rarely addressed and most people create an improper muscle memory first.
The position/tension of the vocal folds (often referred to as cords) is how we create pitch. It is very important to be creating muscle memory using CORRECT pitch! Once you have your vocal folds used to creating accurate pitch it is much easier to maintain pitch in any situation. (For help with pitch training check out the Roland VT-12)
God bless you as you sing for Him!