We may spend years chasing tension around the body, or we can release the tension and learn to sing without it. I prefer the second method.
Is stretching really a part of a vocal warmup?
In short, yes it is! At least stretching is a big part of warming up the body and voice at Michael Jacobs Vocal Studio. A big part of improving the voice comes from releasing unnecessary tensions patterns in the body. That is why methods like Alexander Technique that focus on aligning the body are so effective and beneficial for the voice. During your first voice lesson, Michael will teach you a series of basic stretches that are intended to release tension in areas that are highly likely to impact your singing.
How often do I need to stretch to improve my singing?
During your first voice lesson, Michael will instruct you to do the assigned stretches daily, regardless of whether or not you intend to sing on that day. It's normal to miss days every now and then, but the more consistent you are with stretches, the more improvement you will likely see. These stretches are part of a retraining process to break tension patterns that are often habitual. It can be challenging to release chronic tension when you are singing if you have not had the opportunity to practice walking, talking, breathing and eating with less tension first.
What type of stretches do you recommend for singing?
While people are each unique in the way that tension impacts their singing, Michael usually suggests starting with stretches that target the muscles surrounding the head, neck, face and throat. These include muscles like the sternocleidomastoid, maceter, lateral pterygoid, and tongue.
I'm incredibly tense! What more can I do?
Beyond the basic stretches that Michael assigns as a part of a vocal warm-up during a first voice lesson, Michael may assign additional stretches or exercises involving rolling out muscles with a ball based on your individual needs. Massages, acupuncture, physical therapy, rolfing, yoga and Alexander Technique are all excellent ways of managing tension patterns that impact singing. Contacting a professional specializing in one of these areas may be necessary if you are a person experiencing more than that typical amount of tension that we all carry.
How will stretching help with my singing?
Tension patterns in your body directly translate to problems with breathing, support, placement, articulation and freedom in one's voice. By stretching regularly, one learns to sing without the tension. This can often be a scary process, since the tension often creeps in as an artificial (and ineffective) way to stabilize the voice. Once this crutch is removed, it can be scary to simply let one's voice out freely, although, it has also been described as exhilarating! Singing will become easier with the additional freedom that a relaxed body affords.
My previous voice teacher or vocal coach never had me do stretches. Is there something wrong with what I learned?
Maybe. At Michael Jacobs Vocal Studio, we feel rather strongly regarding the importance of warming up the full body as a part of a vocal warmup. Vocal pedagogy supports this, and therefore we do, too. Not all teachers are aware of the benefits of stretching, though, and it is possible to learn about vocal technique from a teacher who does not use these methods.
I forgot the stretches you assigned at my first voice lesson! What do I do?
Not to worry! Michael reviews the stretches with students at the second voice lesson to make sure that they are being done correctly and none have been forgotten. If you need some visual assistance, the time lapse video posted above is a great reference from another voice student. If you are totally lost, you can feel free to send an email before your next lesson.