As singers, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and focus mainly on where our actual sound is being produced - the vocal folds and onward through the throat. But we all need to look beyond those tiny thumbnail sized tissues, and remember that our power comes from beneath, specifically our lungs. And there are many surrounding muscles, tissues and organs that play a role in how well our power source is working for us. Our goal as vocal artists must be to connect all of the links in the chain so that we can use our full body as our instrument -- and finding the links that are broken or even just a little blurry.
It’s especially easy to lose sight of our lower half - to the point where we may feel like a floating head. To avoid floating head syndrome, let's activate the lower chain! An important muscle that connects our upper and lower halves is called the PSOAS. It’s the only hip flexor that raises our leg past 90 degrees and it shares muscle fibers with the diaphragm (ya know, that thing that is responsible for 80% of inhalation).
We have seen some great results in the studio with exploring the psoas and getting the lower half to start taking on some of the singing load.
Here’s a favorite drill to connect the lower body into your singing:
Sing 4-8 bars of whatever song or monologue you’re working on. This is your baseline.
Put one of your feet flat on a chair at about 90 degrees. Lift your leg as high as it can comfortably go and hold for about 10 seconds. Observe the height of your knee and any feelings of instability. Then, do the same on the other leg.
Usually, one leg is favored in terms of flexibility. So let’s work with the leg / hip flexor that feels a little tighter than the other.
If you have a resistance band, loop one end over the knee of choice and step on the other end with your grounded foot (if you don’t have a band, just press into the raised knee with your palms).
Lift the knee beyond 90 degrees with enough resistance in the band so that it feels like your hip flexor is getting a workout! This is called an ISOMETRIC (i.e. there’s tension in the band and the muscle is working, but no actual movement in the body).
Hold for a solid 10 seconds and recheck your range of motion from step 2.
Retest your voice from step 1 to see any changes you notice in your sound!
You may notice a difference in your sound and overall ease of production. Hopefully you have made one link in the chain even a little bit stronger. If you DID notice a difference, integrate this into your vocal and physical routine. It’s definitely a part of mine. It’s about knowing the little physical things that your body and voice respond to that can empower you as a performer.
Remember that our hip flexors (i.e. psoas), diaphragm, lungs are having a conversation —and are all a functioning part of the overall body chain. So, it’s a worthwhile investment to activate these muscles to see if there is any clearing through the vocal dust.