Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

The Search for Equipoise

This issue of News of Note celebrates the one year anniversary of its inception. Over the past year, it has evolved and no doubt will continue to do so as I keep myself updated on ongoing vocal research.
In contemplating possible upcoming subject matter for the lead articles, I decided to go back to covering the basics of vocal production. This is something I do regularly not only in my own training, but with that of my students regardless of their vocal abilities.
So over the course of 2012, I will be addressing such vocal fundamentals as posture, breathing, resonance, registration, articulation, vocal health care and other components necessary to build a strong and healthy voice.

Mother Always Said “Stand Up Straight!!”
And she was right! So why is good posture so important? Not only does it improve your self-image and self-confidence, it also benefits your health and vocal production. Our posture determines all subsequent muscular action, the efficiency and ease of movement.
The ideal state of body alignment – equipoise – strengthens our core muscles, facilitates easy, deep breathing, protects against back strain, reduces stress on internal organs while improving stamina, reducing fatigue and setting up our bodies to perform optimally.
Poor posture, such as slouching, can result in pain from undue pressure on the spine, fatigue from overused, compensating muscles, poor muscle tone, shallow breathing caused by limited diaphragmatic movement and abdominal pressure possibly leading to reflux.
High or clavicular breathing causes an arch in the lumbar regions of the spine, raised shoulders and anterior forward pelvic rotation, all of which create an imbalance in alignment and compromises one’s breath to support good vocal tone.
Neck muscles are often the starting point for postural problems because they can disrupt relationships between all the skeletal bones, especially spinal movement. Singers often make themselves victims of the upward head tilt that not only effects weight distribution, swallowing and possible compression of blood vessels and nerves that pass through this area to the brain, it also increases pressure on the joints between vertebrae and can throw the body out of its line of gravity, upsetting the balance that can result in overburdening muscles running interference for those unable to do their work because of improper alignment. Chronic support compensation by non-supporting muscles can lead to a mechanical disadvantage in body movement and compromises proper muscle recruitment patterns that may become habitual and difficult to right. Working muscles alternate between contraction and relaxation. This “pumping” action brings in nutrients via blood flow, flushing out wastes and carbon dioxide. When the muscles are constantly contracting attempting to do another’s job, blood flow is disrupted, creating an oxygen deficiency and a build-up of waste products. In time, the muscle loses its ability to contract and will stop working. As a result, our bodies work harder, less efficiently and fatigue faster.
For singers, a lifted head or forward chin position effects jaw movement, shortens the back neck muscles and compromises the larynx. The larynx is suspended within the neck by muscles and ligaments that can either pull it up or down. Lifting the head raises the larynx, tightening the surrounding pharyngeal muscles making singing more effortful, especially in the upper range. A high larynx also shortens the vocal tract, negatively effecting resonance. A downward press of the chin also restricts laryngeal and jaw movement, effects resonance and shortens the anterior neck muscles. Both these head positions can translate into muscle tenderness and/or pain after vocal use.
So what is optimal body alignment? It is the posture that allows us to have the most effective output with minimal energy. There needs to be a balance between the stability muscles (those that help keep the head and neck in neutral minimizing loads placed on the spine) and the mobility muscles (the primary movers of the head, neck and shoulder girdle). Stability allows for mobility and vice versa. Our bodies are dynamic, not static. They are constantly adjusting as they integrate movement with the vertical positioning of the body.
How do we accomplish this optimal posture? Keep spine upright, but not stiff, belly area neither pushed out or pulled in and make sure the abdominals are not tense to allow for uninhibited breathing. Feel your head freely sitting on top of your spine, space between our ear lobes and shoulders, knees unlocked and weight evenly distributed throughout your whole foot . Become aware of your body’s full volume existing in 3 dimensional space and strive for simplicity, clarity and fluidity in a kinetic chain of muscular movement through that space. Pay attention to any postural changes from psychological or emotional stress or alterations in alignment from a habit formed as the result of an injury such as a sprained ankle. Whether walking or sitting, take stock of these things, and make adjustments throughout your day.
This may sound like a big assignment, but ultimately, it will keep your body working longer and easier. It will improve your self-image, signaling confidence and energy. And it will give you more bang for your buck in your singing!

Posture and Voice, Blake, Mathieson, & Rubin. Journal of Singing, Vol.60, No.3. 2004.
Body Integration and Voice Production. Larson & Marth. JOS, Nov/Dec. 1996
Excessive Muscle Tension. A. Deeter. JOS, Sept/Oct. 2005

Standing Up Straight, Part II
To further expand upon the “hows” to build a strong posture, in February’s newsletter, I will address several “body methods” such as yoga, Alexander Technique and Body Mapping. So……stay tuned for more postural posits!

New Feature
If you regularly check my website, you may be familiar with my monthly vocabulary word and sound bite. For those that do not, I have decided to include these items in my newsletter.
Overburdened muscle: a muscle that experiences repeated contractions with no recovery period. Hypertonic – muscle over -activity.
No single muscle controls one single movement. Individuality is an anatomical not a functional characteristic of a muscle.

Another Famous- Not -So -Famous Quote
In the November Newsletter I also started a new trend, a monthly quote. This is an extension of the weekly quote I now display on my piano for the intellectual stimulation of my students during their lesson times!
For this month, I give you the following:
In our world everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself. Leo Tolstoy
As we start yet another new year, let us reflect upon this thought and start by improving our singing, our health and our lives by improving our posture!

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