Power Posture for Singers – Men

I was going to continue reviewing Leyerle’s book but cannot pass the opportunity to say some more about the issue of posture. What is the perfect posture for singing?  These days singers performing live on stage assume all sorts of positions, standing, lying down, dancing, even hanging down suspended from a bar, whatever the dramatic situation requires.

Anthony Ross Costanzo

 

However, in recital or auditions little acting is encouraged. I would not go as far as saying there is one “correct” position to deliver an aria or a song, but there are some that work better than others. Unfortunately, those are not the positions that you can find by googling “perfect posture”.

What you find instead are the positions of a character that goes to a doctor’s office and is asked to stand straight.

Doctor's office posture

 

Is any of it really useful? In my opinion it’s not. So is there a better way? Of course. Just learn from the masters. Let’s take a posture class from Placido Domingo.

This is what he does:

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This is a characteristic posture of a male lead in an opera. Some people find it old fashioned but it is still used by singers to deliver challenging arias. As you can see it consists of leaning forward on your “stronger” leg, slightly bent. Does he stand “straight”? Does he stand tall, “as if a suspended on a string from the crown of his head”? Certainly not!

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But he  is well balanced, grounded and expressive.

Let’s make his position into a diagram.

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Let’s remove the photo:

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Let’s simplify it still further and make it into a stick figure:

Now the diagram doesn’t show the arms, but gives you an idea how the singer holds himself, how he supports his body. The front leg carries most of the weight and is flexible. I left off the arms as they are used more for expression than balance.

So this is it, this is how Placido stands.

 

Well, not just him.  Look at Mick Jagger!

So the slightly forward leaning stance seems to be working for all kinds of singers.

 

 

Tenor Hak Soo Kim Sarasota Opera Blogspot

Their e is a reason for it. It makes singing easier. It takes care of itself, once established you don’t have to think about it.

Because of that it can be especially helpful for beginners. Once you can vocalize well in “Placido’s” position,  you can adjust it to the more elegant, modern recital pose.

Jonas Kaufman Sehnsucht Desire Munich

It is harder to maintain, but doable. At the end of the day a great singer can sing in any position.

So, look around YouTube and find some other singing masters. Look for live recitals and shows where camera captures the whole silhouette, from the head to the feet. Turn off the sound and just observe how they move.

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Hope this helps – if you don’t trust me, trust Placido and Mick!

Next time – best singing posture for women.  Stay tuned.

 

Photos: Anthony Ross Costanzo in Partenope, SF Opera, Huffington Post

Mick Jagger in concert with Taylor Swift , Nashville, Getty Images

Tenor Hak Soo Kim, Sarasota Opera 2012 sarasotaopera.blogspot.com

Russell Thomas as Pollione in Norma, SF Opera 2015, KQED broadcast April 2016

Videos:

Placido Domingo with Luciano Pavarotti at the MET in La Boheme (Domingo singing the baritone part of Marcello)

Jonas Kaufman German Arias recital in Munich (Munchner Rundfunkorchester)

Franco Corelli  in recital, Hamburg 1971

Doodling: Anna Samborska

 

 

Esther Gokhale on Posture

After the operatic soirée, where I talked at some length about the connection between singing and posture Richard recommended to me a book by Esther Gokhale “8 Steps to a Pain Free Back”. What a great find! The author went around the world in search of people who can still stand and walk in a natural way. She also has insights as to why women’s backs went bad as soon as the corsets were out and it became fashionable to look “relaxed”.
I would add that flappers were supposed to be flat-chested and many women became self-conscious about that part of their bodies, hiding it between the shoulders. But what happened to the men? Men’s fashions did not change all that much until the Beatles got out of their suits in 1960s. Ms Gokhale says another factor is lack if proper modeling from family members. But where did those male family members loose their proud posture?

My pet theory is that posture is a reflection of a general state of mind. In Polish, BTW, “attitude” and “posture” are the same word. We start as children looking forward to each day and every new experience, we reach up, get up, get going. But the world that presents itself to an adolescent can be intimidating. Academic expectations, competition, uncertainty – some individual’s deal with those elements of school years better than others. The less confident ones hide in their shells, sink into their bodies, bend under a real or perceived burden of life. A few years in that mental and physical space and your back starts to hurt.

Gokhale’s book gives some great tips on how to reconstruct a natural posture. I believe It is the same posture that enables singers to phonate with the greatest ease and efficiency. I did not study it in traditional cultures but I did study it in dancers, actors, athletes and , of course, in singers. It consists of a well “stacked” spine and the pelvis without posterior or exaggerated anterior tilt. Esther Gokhale makes a good case that some anterior tilt is actually part of the healthy posture. This is a very subtle distinction, because you don’t want to “tilt” forward the hips of someone with lordosis. I bet she can help a lot of people with hands on work. Anyway, the photographic material makes it pretty clear: the pubic bones that hold all the “guts” should be under you, not in front of you. The top bones of the pelvis should be in line with the hip joint, not behind it. It can feel like they are pushed forward.

I love how she explains the issues of the spine but have a bit of a problem when she talks about other parts of the body. From a singer’s perspective the advice on the movement of the rib cage is incorrect. The breast bone doesn’t move with every breath, doesn’t need to. Observe the chests of the most powerful singers – completely immobile. Also, I would never try to “fix” or stretch the neck, with any physical manipulation, like pulling up by the hair.

I disagree with the notion that the weight of the body should be carried primarily on the heel, as the “delicate” bones of the front of the foot cannot handle that task. If you ever tried to jump from any height and landed on your heel you know why this is dangerous. The bones if the front and middle of the feet are there as shock absorbers, and we should use them more, not less, to reduce impact, especially to protect the knees.

Manually massaging and twisting the feet to give them the “desired” kidney shape – I think she means developing a proper arch – just doesn’t work. In order to twist the foot in this way you need to indeed stand and walk primarily on your heels. Which is unnatural. The muscles of the foot are not getting exercised by carrying the body’s weight but by that artificial twist.

A very good idea in the book is the concept of exercising posture during everyday activities and even resting. Now this is a workout after my heart – even in your sleep! This part reminds me of Alexander Technique, which is another good posture correction system. Part if it consists of stretching the back while lying down, which is assisted by a practitioner. Ms Gokhale shows how to do it yourself.
In general, great resource including lots of inspiring pictures.

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