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Vocal Fitness - Vocal Balance

Vocal Fitness - Vocal Balance

By Diana Yampolsky, Canadian Musician Magazine

vocal cartoon - three singersIt's all about balance. You will hear everyone from new age gurus to marriage counsellours to characters in beer commercials proclaim this statement. It's pretty much a cliche but there is something of a universal truth in every cliche. With respect to being a vocalist, balance is extremely important. As I have said again and again successful singing performances are the result of a combination of the correct technical aspects, a healthy vocal anatomy and a willingness to share your "spirit" with the audience. Ultimately then successful singers must find the correct balance between the physical, emotional and spiritual components of singing.

Another cliche that often gets repeated is that "your voice is your instrument" and again it is so commonly stated because it really is a fundamental truth. Your voice is your instrument and it's performance is a direct result of how well you take care of it. You wouldn't dip your guitar in glue and then expect it to sound good, would you? Unfortunately, this is akin to what many people often do! To be able to deliver a correct technical singing performance and prevent yourself from doing any damage to your vocal anatomy and thus maintain a healthy voice, you really do need to be in good physical condition.

So how should you exercise in order to be in the ideal physical condition for a singer? Again, you guessed it, the answer is balance. Not only should you be aiming for a balanced workout that includes aerobic (cardio training), anaeorbic (weight training) and flexibility exercises but you should also be trying to achieve a balanced physique. What exactly is a balanced physique you may ask? Essentially it is when the both the upper body and lower body are in proportion. For example, if you go to any gym in your city you will probably see some men that are so obsessed with having big arms and chests that they exercise their upper bodies way more than their lower bodies. They have huge upper bodies and skinny legs. Conversely, some people that are into activities such as skating or soccer may develop large muscles in their legs while being practically emaciated with respect to their upper body. In both cases, the result is that they are not in balance.

Singers who are out of balance with very muscular legs and skinny upper bodies tend slouch quite a bit and this type of posture is very detrimental for singing. Their whole body is pointed downwards towards the ground and this is in direct opposition to what good singers do - they tend lift their entire body upwards as a way of lifting the sound off the vocal chords so that it can resonate within their vocal chamber. A metaphor for a singer who slouches is a plane that takes off but due to excessive weight cannot reach the proper height and crashes to the ground.

Singers who are physically out of balance due to a big upper body and skinny lower body are at an equal disadvantage. Again, while most people assume that singing is purely the domain of the throat and mouth, the truth is that most good singers use their legs to support the required posture necessary to lift the body upwards while singing. If the upper body is so heavy that the legs struggle to lift it upwards then the sound will again not be lifted off the vocal chords and into the vocal chamber. Furthermore, if the singer tries to overcompensate for a weak lower body by flexing his chest and neck, this overstressing of the upper body will result in weak, shrill and unpleasant sounding singing.

Therefore, the recipe for success is the right blend of a balanced body, mind, and soul. The reward will be a great sounding voice.