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Singers: Improve your alignment for optimal sound

Improve your alignment with an app that's already in your pocket

Checking self-adjustment often leads to optimal sound.

Many singers are completely unaware of their own body alignment and how it affects optimal sound production. With a tool that almost everyone carries— your cell phone—you can empower your singers to identify and improve their own body alignment on their own. For best results, present this as a voluntary exercise, acknowledging that singers may feel a bit exposed when asked to study their own bodies in such a vulnerable way. Anyone who opts out of being photographed may still participate as a photographer.

Taking photos

Ask singers to pair up and take turns photographing each other in full-body profile. Singers being photographed should aim to align the holes in the ears with the middle of the shoulder, the middle of the shoulder with the middle of the hip, and the middle of the hip with the middle of the ankle.

Many singers will discover, when they look at the photo of themselves, that their ears are farther forward than they thought, and many will discover that their hips are forward of their shoulders and will need to bend forward slightly at the hips to bring the shoulders over the hips. Let them study their own photo, then let them self-correct and take another photo.

Explain that we are not looking for perfection, that every inch of improved alignment contributes to improvement in the ensemble sound, and that nothing should be painful, though it will feel awkward for a while. Encourage singers to address any new tension with subtle, continuous motion; let the head bobble freely on the spine, but in the context of optimal alignment.

Expand with Video

If time permits, continue with a video exercise. Explain that singers often unconsciously compromise their alignment on breaths. Let partners take turns videoing each other in profile while everyone sings a short section of a song together. After being videoed, let singers watch themselves (with sound turned off) to see what happens on the breath.

Finally, invite the singers to repeat the video exercise with total commitment to expressive delivery to see how this affects alignment.

Inclusion Tip: Modification

Modify the instructions as needed for singers who cannot stand upright or who cannot view their own alignment due to visual impairments. Singers who perform seated can achieve ideal alignment with properly-selected seating and attention to posture.

about the author

Elizabeth Davies is the director of Sound Harmony Chorus and co-director, with Melanie McGuire, of the Seattle SeaChordsmen.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2020 issue of The Harmonizer.