Movement In Singing - It’s quite literally a ‘no-brainer’!
Reading Time: 5 min
Reading Time: 5 min
In my journey through voice training, it took a fair bit of time and exploration before I stumbled upon those considering movement and the dance between body and mind. They were often relegated to the sidelines, labelled a tad ‘woo woo’ because they weren’t trying to control the voice directly.
But, delve a bit deeper, and you'll see that movement in singing is a massive ally. It offers very different solutions to singings’ common problems. Really good ones that aren’t cerebral at all.
So, it boggles the mind why it's not championed more, and why it gets sidelined century after century. In this article, I’ll share some top tips on integrating it into your singing.
I’d bet a tenner that many of us who’ve taken singing lessons have heard this. But, I NEVER utter these words to my singers. When someone speaks with passion but barely flinches, it's just...odd! We expect to see the speaker use their hands, especially when emotions run high. This not only amplifies their message but also helps us, the listeners, to truly grasp the essence of the words.
Or, for us musical folks, the depth of the lyrics.
To drive this point home, imagine not speaking English but dancing to English tunes. That's the reality for a good chunk of the globe! So, to truly resonate with an audience, regardless of language barriers, movement is key. So look, encourage yourself (or your students!) to move and align with the message, which leads me to…
Purposeful movement is like rocket fuel for the voice. Reaching and writhing can evoke powerful sounds. I've witnessed singers stretch the arms skyward, producing sounds that are nothing short of breathtaking. Often, they'll remark, “it just felt right to belt it!”. This highlights how intentional movement can shift one's mindset, unlocking vocal ability that was previously difficult to find. Give it a whirl yourself and see what happens!
The reaching of the arms echoes the sentiment of the ‘power pose’, which, despite its cheesy boardroom history, genuinely works. The pose evokes emotions (like confidence) that seep into your vocal tone, as emotions tend to do.
Indeed, various movements influence us differently. Reaching up or out stabilises the ribs for those powerhouse notes. Buoyant swaying and wafting the arms can regulate breathing and bring about calm and a some legato. Shaking the fists or shivering the body adds a lively tone, perfect for conveying excitement or anticipation. Especially handy when you're feeling a tad ‘meh’ on the energy front!
In case you hadn’t spotted it, pairing your vocal qualities with these expected movements actually facilitates the achievement of those sounds. This is partly because brain areas for voice and hands are next door neighbours, sharing some connection. So, expressing with the hands is a gateway to the most emotive singing and proves we are hardwired as a whole body instrument!
Revisiting the ‘stand still’ mantra, intentional movement is a far superior alternative. Excessive movement during a performance might scream 'NERVES!'. Halting it might stifle the anxiety for a little while, but it's akin to placing a lid on a boiling pot! A better approach? Channel that energy into intentional movement instead. From my experience, this trumps standing still in calming jittery singers.
I mean, what is the point in doing any voice training if we can’t repeat the results reliably. On this learning thread, it’s been shown plenty of times that hand gestures help us to recall things. We do this in speech all the time, especially when recalling space or size. You can easily imagine how the hands would the hands gesture in statements like “the venue was huge!!” or “they were about this tall, officer”. Not just for communicating the message, but for recalling the details!
So, if we are able to move we can reinforce our learning. We can ensure where we’d like that high note to go, remember the pattern of the melody, or which interval we are singing (check out the Kodaly method for more on that!).
It's no fluke that some of the best singers, like MJ, Beyoncé, and P!nk, are also nifty movers. Musical theatre churns out stellar singers for a similar reason. My hunch? Movement while singing offers a smorgasbord of vocal options.
Consider the nuances in throwing a dart at a bullseye. The stance, the muscle coordination for the throw. Now, think how differently your body would recruit muscle movement if you stood at a different angle to the board. Same action (dart throw), but different combination of muscles to achieve it.
We could vary the environment of a darts player in umpteen different ways, and that would create the ability to be able to hit that bullseye no matter what you threw at them (provided it wasn’t a dart!). They could quite literally “do it standing on their head”!
In singing, the principle holds. Muscles collaborate to produce sound. Introduce movement to your singing, and your body must adapt, finding new muscle combinations for the same sound. This versatility is invaluable for a singer, preparing you for any curveball you might get on stage or in the audition. And let’s face it, in musical theatre you can often get asked to sing some wild notes in very compromising positions.
This isn't a call to moonwalk during every lesson. But integrating deliberate movement, like turning your head or marching in place, will bolster your singing stability. If you master singing amidst movement, standing calm becomes a doddle!
Incorporating movement is so easy to bring into singing, and so effective, that it works for every level of singer. It doesn’t take up nearly as much brain space as many vocal exercises do, and can actually free up some space by pushing out those limiting thoughts lurking in the corner.
It's a more holistic approach to posture and breathing that doesn’t run into the weeds nearly as often.
In my singing courses, a vast majority of singers discover a movement that accelerates their progress, whether beginners or pros. It can be so profound that they struggle to get their heads round what just happened.
Sometimes, the epiphany is that movement was the missing piece all along, explaining why endless 'mum mum mum' scales didn't quite move the needle.
To experience a fun and transformative approach to voice strengthening, work with me on one of my online group training programs. Just go to chrisjohnsonvocals.com/group-singing and put your name down to receive more information about the next available one.