I’ve blogged before about the importance for singers of maintaining a uniform vowel when moving from note to note. By not altering the shape of your internal resonance cavity (which determines the vowel sound), you avoid interfering with the delicate muscular adjustments to your registration which must happen with speed and precision in high-level singing. Any extraneous movements of the singing “environment” in and around your larynx makes it harder for the musculature of your vocal cords to respond with the requisite precision.
This issue is one that arises in nearly every lesson I teach and also in my own lessons with my teacher.
I was intrigued last week during an Alexander lesson with Mio Morales, a teacher I’m working with a lot these days, when I encountered the same principle in completely different circumstances. We were exploring the activity of walking, when Mio suggested that I let my legs be “way down there,” i.e. far away from my head, and that I continue to let them be down there as I initiated a step.
Perhaps because I was primed by my recent emphasis on maintaining vowel uniformity, I noticed immediately when taking that first step that I was doing all kinds of subtle preparatory tensing in the muscles of my lower legs and feet just before and during the movement. When I “maintained a uniform leg” by inhibiting those extraneous tensions, I found that my legs moved with more ease. I felt lighter throughout my whole body and enjoyed a sense of gentleness pervading my movements.
Both of these situations—maintaining uniformity of vowel and of legs—exemplify what F.M. Alexander referred to as “leaving yourself alone.” We can avoid complicating our movements from note to note and from here to the kitchen by inhibiting unnecessary preparatory tensing. In this way, we can make success easier and more likely for our muscles.
Want to know something really marvelous? At my next voice lesson after the Alexander lesson I just mentioned, I experimented with maintaining uniformity of legs as I initiated singing, and discovered that it helped me to maintain vowel uniformity too! I suppose that against a “cleaner” background of muscle activity in my body, ANY extraneous movement stands out more clearly. (Like how obvious a streak appears on the otherwise pristine window you’ve just cleaned.)
This just goes to show how your entire body is the environment for your voice and why it’s so important to consider the whole Self in singing.