How Proper Posture Improves Singing

Singer Leanne Kenneally

Patrick Riviere / Getty Images

Stradivari violins are known for their unsurpassed craftsmanship and quality of sound. The process of creating one involves painstakingly carving the wood so that the violin is thickest in the center. This shape has proven to give the violin a beautiful sound. The same time and energy is spent in the design and creation of all great instruments.

As a singer, your body is the instrument. Just like carving a violin, you can change the shape of your body in a way that improves tone quality. No surgery is involved; all you have to do is learn how to have good posture.

How Posture Affects Breath Support

  • Increases Breath Capacity: The goal of good posture is to create the largest space possible in your chest cavity so your lungs can expand fully. With more air, you are able to sing longer phrases.
  • Helps You Breathe Low: Learning to breathe low while standing up can be a challenge. Luckily there is a relatively simple solution; keep your chest up. Because your chest rises and falls when breathing high, keeping the chest up forces the body to take a low, diaphragmatic breath perfect for singing.
  • Gets You to the End of a Phrase: When there is only a small amount of air left in the lungs, the rib cage and chest prepare to collapse in order to let the last bit of air gush out. Singers fight that urge, keeping the chest high and rib cage expanded. Doing so allows you to release the breath slowly so that you can get to the ends of phrases without sounding like you are running out of air.

How Posture Affects Your Body

  • Helps Release Tension: As a stressed-out undergrad, I struggled with jaw tension especially when singing my high notes. I found that by focusing on aligning my ears with my shoulders, my high notes sounded free and easy again. That is because a properly aligned frame encourages your entire body to relax. It was much harder for my jaw to tense with my neck in proper position.
  • Allows Air to Flow Freely Through Vocal Cords: Your vocal cords vibrate by allowing air to flow through them causing them to open and shut. A long, straight neck opens up the space that houses your vocal cords and allows air to progress unobstructed through the vocal cords.

What if Good Posture Makes My Body Tense?

There may be a short transition phase when correct posture feels unnatural. For instance, you may not feel comfortable straightening and lengthening the neck the first time you try it. If by doing so you release tension in other parts of the body (for me it was the jaw), then it is well worth the effort to make proper posture feel natural.

On the other hand, you may overcorrect a slumped stance and cause additional problems. A neck that is too far back or a chest too high causes tension. Be careful not to overdo it while you practice correct singing posture.

Why Do Some Singers Sound Good Without Proper Posture?

Any opera or musical theater singer knows the importance of singing beautifully while moving. It may seem impossible to have good posture while leaning on a prop. But even while leaning, you can align your ears with your shoulders and keep the chest high.

The Alexander Technique is a tool singers can learn for maintaining good posture while moving. The technique teaches you to use deep postural muscles rather than actively engaging superficial muscles. The best way to learn the Alexander Technique is to hire a certified therapist. You will learn to move with the least amount of effort, so you can save your energy for singing.