What to Do With Your Body While Singing or Playing?
As funny as this question may sound, do you really know? Or do you feel that YOU are singing or playing? Do you believe that you are playing WITH your instrument or singing WITH your voice?
Are you aware of all of you as a whole or is your attention on parts? On the stiff hands, or thinking what comes next, or about the audience, or are you focused on the music and your emotions?
Do you feel somewhat separate from your body?
Your body is your instrument and your body is your voice. As obvious as it may seem, the movement of your body is creating the music.
Here I share some of the ideas that help to build and keep a healthy relationship with the movement of the body to create the most authentic sound.
IDEAS FOR INSTRUMENTALISTS
Sometimes the best kept secret for instrumentalists is that they move for a living. Even more, it is the most complex movement. Yet, comparatively very little attention is payed to the movement aspects of making music. The result could be that the musician ends up in trouble, pain or with technical limitations. While such wonderful techniques as the Alexander Technique or Gyrotonics can help to free your body from misuse, the following ideas will already help to raise your body awareness and create more authentic movement.
The body is beautifully designed for repetitive movement. Unless it is being misused. Begin to look at the different musicians like archetypes. Watch videos of musicians and create your own list of archetypes (if you prefer, just look at the musicians that play the same instrument as you do): The twisted, curled guitar players. The violin players that lock the head to the violin. The cellists who look down. Whatever the repeating habits are, that are “typical”, list them.
Now, add to the list, what else do you notice (to train your perception and awareness)? If you watch the guitar players that curl over their guitar, what else do they do? Tense their chests or do they move their arms freely from their heart and center? Do they connect with the audience? The music? What do their feed do?
How do you feel when watching and listening? What happens in your body, with your emotions? What do you feel? What thoughts come up?
Surely you admire certain musicians. Find videos of them and watch. What do they do? What do your favorite musicians have in common when it comes to their movement? Note whatever you notice. This will further refine your awareness for the body as an instrument.
Finally watch yourself. It is okay to film yourself while rehearsing and watch after. More important, notice while you are in action and playing. Am I also locking my head to the violin? Are my shoulders stiff? Where do I look? What do I think? What do I feel? Am I cold or warm? Play with your awareness for a while.
The next and most interesting step is to begin to play with the concepts you have noticed on yourself. Experiment. What changes if I don’t lock my head to the violin? Do I really need to? How does the sound change? What if I walk around and dance the music? Challenge your own concepts and begin to follow your ideas and movement impulses. What changes long term in the way I play? In my expressiveness? My health and stamina?
Singing is an profoundly interior activity. Interior to the massive movement muscle that lies under our skins, reside the singing structures. Interior are the resonating spaces and the shaping muscles, the vocal cords, the lungs, the diaphragm and the support muscles of the lower torso. All wrapped up like something precious under this blanket. This precious interior should be able to swing and resonate and not be squeezed to death by the outer protection.
Singers learn many concepts from teachers, medical doctors or other singers. They might be told to breathe deeply into their belly. Yet, if they did and could, they would die. The organ used for breathing are the lungs… how important is it to be aware of the difference, if the image brings along the intended effect of breathing more deeply? It does make a lot of difference when it comes to movement, body awareness and the internal use of the body. It does make a lot a difference if you want to be able to create the best vibration for the rhythm and sound you want to create.
The intention of this exploration is to undo unnecessary or limiting concepts. To begin to know your body and go on your own journey of singing. Start by lying on your back on the floor. Place your feed on the floor, hip width apart, the knees pointing to the ceiling. Feel the floor underneath and allow your back, feed, shoulders, arms and back of your head to ease and melt into the floor by allowing your weight to ease into the floor. Bring your awareness to your breath. Watch your breathing without reacting to it. How does it feel? Soft or hard? Does your back expand when you inhale? How does it move your body?
Follow the movement of your breath and expand it. Allow it to move you. Keep it smooth and make it even bigger, if your breath rolls you over, follow… step out of thinking and focus on your breathing. It might even bring you to standing our jumping… watch how the movement affects your breath-deepens and quickens it. Play with how your movement influences your breathing, slower your movement and watch how the still quicker breathing feels in the stiller body. Find your way back to the floor. Rest for a moment and notice any differences and changes within your body.
If you feel like it, see if your singing is different now.
Do the same exploration as before and add sounds, vowels, whatever comes naturally with the breath and movement. Is your singing different after? Is it more expressive?
Claudia Kohl is an artist, Alexander
Technique coach, designer and author. She is the founder of The Artists Coaching in Berlin, a studio dedicated to support artists in their creative, artistic process as well as life. She has helped singers, musicians, actors, dancers and circus artists, to build a healthy and inspired carrier. Claudia likes to work with artists suffering from anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, chronic pain, burnout or artists with the courage to start something new. She comes from a background of theatre and dance before studying the Alexander Technique and developing her own method with the artists of the famous Cirque du Soleil. As a nomad and curious soul she has traveled and experienced more than most people do in their lifetime. She believes that art is what we are and that it is our responsibility to make the world a better place. She is known for her down to earth, loving and highly inspired, engaging approach to coaching. Claudia’s insights inspire audiences around the world through her monthly “Inspiration” newsletter and online coaching. For artists in Berlin, besides one on one sessions, she offers weekly Bohemian Brunches and Artistic Vision Quests.