Did you know your vocal folds are the length and width of the last section of your pinkie finger? Two tiny flaps of skin expected to make all of the vocal magic happen. That seems unfair!
Recruiting larger muscle groups to aid in sound production is not only beneficial but also necessary to prevent injuries. Using your glutes, your lats, your hammies and/or your core will allow for a more supportive and bigger sound.
Watch this clip of Cynthia Erivo singing “I’m Here” on the Tony’s (she comes in at 2:53).
Notice the physical gestures she does to help her support the different sounds she’s making throughout this song. Some examples include walking, squatting, marching or raising a leg, heel drops, lateral raises, chest fly, arm extensions aka reaching, and even head nodding/shaking.
Not only do these movements aid in producing a freer sound, but they also add to her performance. We interpret her movements as emotional expressions. We see her really investing in the storytelling and the emotional arc of her piece by watching her body move. It’s not weird when you see her do it, right? It doesn’t detract from her performance; in fact, it accelerates it. I believe her more and want to see her get what she’s after because of how committed she is emotionally and physically.
I’ve been on a kick lately in the studio talking about how weird it is when people are singing in color yet acting in black and white. What I mean with this analogy is that songs that require big sounds are usually songs that have big emotional stories to tell. It’s a disconnect when I see a singer just standing there casually while singing “Let It Go” when I know that within the context of the show, the song exists for a specific purpose. At this moment, Elsa is feeling energized in finally releasing all of her pent up power, is finally accepting herself for who she is and what she can do after years of shame, and she is also literally creating an ice castle from scratch. All of that would require some significant physical effort to get through, thus it makes sense to me that a singer choosing to perform that song would have to be engaging their body in the storytelling in order for it to ring true.
Consider using your whole body, especially your back chain muscle groups, the next time you have a big sing! The next time you’re practicing and feel like it gets hard, pause, and ask yourself how much your body was helping you. Was it 100% supportive or 0%? Go back and try your piece while squatting, doing lunges, knee raises, wall sits, raising your arms (chest fly, rows, lat pulldowns), rotating your rotator cuffs, doing calf raises, walking backwards, etc.
Let us know what you notice!