Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
When I was a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, we began every acting class lying on the ground and assessing our body. We would then progress through a series of exercises to improve alignment before vocalizing. We would sing exercises and arias in this position and then try to maintain the freedom we found on the floor while standing. I didn’t quite understand why we did this exercise then, but now that I do, it is an indispensable part of my teaching. Richard Miller talks about singing in the supine position in Solutions for Singers:
“Lying on the back places the entire body, head to toe, in alignment, and the sternum is dissuaded from falling. In the supine position, the head, neck, and torso remain axial, and problems of laryngeal positioning, voice registration, and clavicular breathing are avoided” (Miller, p. 41).
I use this position whenever I sense there is physical tension getting in the way of free vocal production. While in the supine position, the postural muscles relax and the vocal mechanism is able to function without interference. By having the singer vocalize for 10-15 minutes while lying on the ground, you are helping him program his voice to function without the use of unnecessary extrinsic muscle engagement. When you have him stand, his body should automatically sense that he is no longer in his default. Immediately begin vocalizing him and help him assess what is different and how he can remember what has changed. You can have him return to the ground throughout the lesson as needed. If the student practices this everyday for several weeks, you should see noticeable improvements in his ability to release physical tension when singing both exercises and songs.
Do you ever have your students vocalize while laying down? Do you include other steps not mentioned above? If so, please leave a comment below. If you are not already following the blog, you can sign-up at the bottom right of this page to receive an email notification of each new post. If you are interested in learning more about Functional Voice Training, please consider joining me this summer at the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University (CCMInstitute.com).
As always, thank you for reading!