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Body Line
By Daniel K. Robinson (2011)

To all our die hard cricket fans out there the title of this article, Body Line, does
not refer to the controversial bowling tactic used by the English during the Ashes
tour of 1932–33. Instead this piece is going to focus on the topic of posture;
more correctly referred to as Body Alignment.

There are few things in singing more fundamental than body alignment. Even
breath management, while fundamental to phonation, plays the game of
‘chicken and egg’ with body alignment because both technical aspects are so
intricately connected. Daniel Zanger Borch (2005) writes, “Good posture
improves your ability to control your breathing and is the basis of good vocal
technique…The muscles that we use to control our breathing demand that the
body is balanced from top to toe” (p. 16).

The development of positive postural alignment theory first commenced with the
work of Francis Matthias Alexander (1869 – 1955), an Australian actor/reciter.
Known as the Alexander Technique, this discipline encourages the development
and awareness of body mechanics. Since its inception, other methodologists
have developed the ideas of body mechanics further with Feldenkrais
(movement re-education) and William Conable’s Body Mapping being among the
more prominent. In What Every Singer Needs to Know About the Body,
MaryJean Allen (2009) provides the following definitions of Body Mapping
stating:

 The body map is your mental representation of your body’s size, structure, and
function. The body map is of enormous importance to singers because the
integrity of any movement depends on the integrity of the body map that
governs it. When you correct and refine your body map, your movements
improve, resulting in better singing.
 Kinaesthesia is the sixth (often forgotten) sense, the perception of your body in
motion. Singers who learn how to perceive their bodies kinaesthetically will
clearly discern movement size, position, and quality, which is vital for beautiful,
communicative and healthy singing.
 Inclusive awareness is conscious, simultaneous organised awareness of your
inner and outer experience. Inclusive awareness includes kinaesthesia. (p. 2)

Developing a buoyant body state through heightened awareness is challenging
and takes time for the student singer to master. It has been my experience in
observing singing students that bodies often do the most unusual things in order
to ‘support’ the voice. And herein lays the trick. Your body is the voice! For
instance the thrusting forward of the head and neck is a classic example of an
instrument that is working too hard. When asked about neck protrusion during

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singing Richard Miller (2004) responded “Muscle antagonism in any part of the
body brings clearer muscle definition, but enlargement of the leaders of the neck
at phrase endings, or in high-lying passages, may be indicative of excessive
subglottic pressure or of excessive muscle antagonism” (p. 46). Miller is saying if
you can see or feel muscle tension then you are singing inefficiently.

A big part of good body alignment is the management of the body’s tendency to
form muscular tension when under load. Some genres of contemporary singing
such as rock, metal and even music theatre require the singer to perform and
sustain high notes with incredible energy. The challenge therefore is to maintain
the performance standards of your chosen genre while you manage the
instruments partiality for tension. One way that you can monitor and maintain a
balanced alignment, while managing your tension during performance is to
ensure that your weight is constantly over the balls of your feet. Borch (2005)
agrees. He writes “Putting too much weight on your heels can increase the strain
on your larynx...A suitable relaxed and balanced position may feel like you are
leaning slightly forward with your weight on the front of your ankles” (p. 17).
Leading voice researcher, Robert Satoloff (2006) enhances the forward buoyant
position further by encouraging singers to have their feet apart, “not more
apparent than the width of the shoulders. Many singers prefer to have one foot
slightly forward” (p. 275). It does take time for this active position to become
‘second nature’ but the benefits are far reaching; enhancing breath
management, intonation and stamina.

Ultimately, body alignment is far more than what is briefly outlined above. Talk
to your singing teacher about how you might be better served by attending to
your entire instrument and developing a buoyant body line.

References

Allen, M. (2009). Body mapping, kinesthesia, and inlcusive awareness. In M.
Malde, M. Allen & K.-A. Zeller (Eds.), What every singer needs to know
about the body (pp. 1–9). San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing Inc.

Borch, D. Z. (2005). Ultimate vocal voyage: The definitive method for
unleashing the rock, pop or soul singer within you. Bromma, Sweden:
Notfabriken Music Publishing AB.

Miller, R. (2004). Solutions for singers: Tools for performers and teachers. New
York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Sataloff, R. T. (Ed.). (2006). Vocal health and pedagogy: Advanced assessment
and treatment (2nd ed. Vol. 2). San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing Inc.

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