Adults' Lesson 12: Vocal and Body Maintenance | Sing with ETO
Hello my name is john savornin, i'm an opera singer a director. And the artistic, director, of charles court opera. As you know eto's, current and future seasons have been affected, by the kobe 19, outbreak. But english touring opera have been very supportive. To all of their artists. This is singing lesson number 12, which forms part of a series, eto, are releasing this spring for adults and they also have a series of singing lessons for, children, which you can find, on their website. Or via their social media channels if you'd like to have a look. Today i would like to talk to you about. Maintenance. Both body maintenance. And, vocal, maintenance, looking after the vocal mechanism, itself. Dane janet baker once gave a very useful analogy, for singing which involves, keeping your glass, clean. And that involves. Taking away all of the obstacles, and bad habits, that we develop. Sometimes. Completely. Subconsciously. While we're singing under pressure. They get in the way, of us having a really clean glass through which we can. Shine, the. Words, and the music that we're being asked to serve, as performers. And so i hope that some of these exercises, will prove, useful to you. In massaging. Your body and helping your voice. To be free, and as, honest as it can be whilst you are performing. The first. Exercise, that i would like to share with you involves lying on the floor, so if you can, find a space. In which you can lie uh, the full length of your body, including, stretching, your hands. And arms above your head, then that'll be great. Grab a yoga mat if you have one otherwise, just lie, on any floor space that you have available. And i'll see you there in just a second. So this is a really. Simple. Exercise. That is inspired, by, pilates. And it involves. Really helping the. Back especially, the lower back, get. Plenty, of length. And hopefully, you will stand up and feel just a couple, of inches, taller. So. First, you want to get on your back on the floor, put your feet, on the ground but your knees. Up. This is a fantastic. Resting, position. For the back. And just stay here. For a few minutes. Allow. All of your muscles, and any tension that you can feel. Any. Holding. That you're doing. To just melt away. So, not try to do anything. Not try to force, your, shoulders, into the floor, or force your back into the floor just let it all feel heavy. And. Almost, like, your whole body becomes, liquid. And just stay there. For a few minutes longer. Enjoy. All of the releases. That you're. Feeling. From. There. If you just take. Your right leg and put your foot across. Your. Left. Thigh. And take your hands. And take. Hold. Of your leg, like this, and you will feel. A really lovely, stretch. In. Your upper right leg. As you do this. All of these muscles are all connected, up into your back. So it's taking. Some steps towards. Creating. A sense, of freedom, in your whole, body. And you can just. Pull your. Hands towards your chest and lean into that stretch. And breathe. Into, your. Leg. Into your hip. Into your glutes. And let everything. Go. And then gently. Put that. Foot down on the ground. And we're going to go. To the other side. Just, lean into that. Stretch. Breathe, through it. And then. Just bring. Your. Leg a little closer to your chest. I need to stretch today. And. Breathe, into. It. And. Feel, the. Release. Taking, really, nice. Low. Breaths. Then gently, take that leg. Down. Put both feet back on the floor.
Hopefully, You might feel a little difference, in your lower back. Already. And just wait here for a moment. Letting any new tensions. Just. Melt away. Again. You can give your head a little roll while you're here. And also give your pelvis, just a gentle, roll. Back and forward as if you are tipping, a, bucket. Some of you will remember, ed hawkins, talking about tipping the bucket in his. Singing lesson. This is the same. Idea. Now from there, i'd like to take your hands and put them. Either side of your body. And. If you tense, your glutes. And your upper thighs. And. Your lower abdominals, to a certain extent. Really important to do this when you try this exercise. I'd like you to use. Those muscles, to gently. Lift. Your pelvis. Up off the floor entirely. Really keeping an eye that you're. Leading. From, your lower body in doing this and not from your back. Until. You're at. A nice. Straight, angle. Whilst you've got, yourself, in that position. Take your arms and take them above your head. And lay them out, above you. And then very, slowly. Stack. Your spine. Back on the floor. As if you're laying. A snake, down. Very slowly, very gently. So the last, thing that you put down. Are your hips. Just give them a gentle wiggle while you're there. Hopefully, already you're feeling your. Back is being extended. Then bring your, hands, back to your sides. And we're going to repeat the process. So tensing, your glutes. And your legs. To keep all the pressure, off your lower back. Or then lifting, up. Until you're at. A nice, straight angle. Take your arms. All the way above your head and lay them out flat. And again, just, gently. Drop. Your back down, piece by piece. Last but not. Least. Give them a little wiggle. And then, bring your arms back down by your side. You might, now just want to reposition, your head. To make sure that it's got a little bit of extra length. And we'll go one more time. Tensing. The glutes. Legs. Leading, from them. And bringing. Your pelvis, up. Arms, all the way stretched, above, your head. As far as is comfortable, but without going too. Far. And then, lowering. Your back. Piece by piece, until the last thing you put down. Is. Your pelvis. And then just bringing your hands, softly. Back to somewhere, on your. Chest. And breathing. Now you can stay there for as long as you like and whilst you were doing that exercise. I hope that you could feel that your lower back was being. Gently, extended, in length each time and also. Your head felt like it was.
Maintaining, Some distance. From your shoulders. It's a really lovely exercise. To just. Reacquaint, yourself with the length of your body. Before you then gently stand up, and. Feel. Lighter, and taller, going into practice, feeling as if you have found, the optimum. Posture. Now that we have. Established. The length, of our back, and, come to standing. To enjoy. Uh feeling just a little bit taller. I'd like you to turn your attention. To, your, neck. Uh the muscles in your neck often can become very. Fatigued. During singing, uh because they uh get involved, in ways that they, sometimes, should and sometimes, shouldn't. And i find it incredibly, useful, to. Perform, this simple. Stretching, exercise. Before i start singing, or before i go on stage, just to make sure that the neck is, really, really free, and light, and that there's plenty, of length. In the back of the neck which is really important. In order to allow the vocal mechanism. To. Work in its most optimum, way. So if you just want to, take your. Head, and. Bring it down, to, your. Chest. Very, likely, resting, your chin. On your. Neck. And then we're going to take. Our head. On. A circular, journey. Letting, your. The weight of your head, guide the entire, process. And not. Putting, too much. Pressure. Or. Force into any of this. It's really about. Observing. The. Cracks, and the stretches. As you're going around. But without, forcing, anything. And you can take it back the other way. Let the weight of the head guide, everything. Really let it. Take you round. I've got some. Cracks, going on today. And. Once you come back round to the front, if you want to you can take your hands and, put them together like this and just put a tiny bit of pressure. On your head. To get a little extra, stretch, in your neck so it may well go down into your back a little bit which is absolutely, fine it's all connected. Once you've done that give that a little shake. Drop your shoulders. And then i'd like you to turn your attention, to the two, long, muscles. On either side of your neck which often get really, really involved in our singing. Especially, when we're doing things, uh. Incorrectly. So if you just take your head and drop it to one side. And then from your chin just go straight, up to the ceiling. And enjoy, that fantastic. Stretch that you get. All the way down the side of your neck here how long that muscle. Is. Just hold it there for a moment, just allowing that stretch to ease in, and breathe into it. And then shake it out. And. Repeat on the other side, drop your head. Point the chin up to the ceiling. And enjoy that fantastic. Stretch. And check that out. Hopefully. Your head now feels, really uh free, and, relaxed. And, almost like it's floating.
Like A nodding dog in the back of a car. And hopefully now you'll be able to go into your, vocal practice. Feeling just that a, little bit freer. And uh and more relaxed. The next thing i'd like to talk to you about, is jaw, tension. It's very easy for our jaw, to get. Too, involved. In our singing especially, when it is, uh taking on, any tensions. That uh. Avoid. The body getting completely, connected. Uh to the voice itself. And it's also possible to over, stretch. Our jaw, downwards, like this. And while that might, feel good in some ways. The action of dropping the jaw that much is actually getting in the way of the vocal mechanism, being able to work properly. And allowing the larynx. To turn in the way it needs to as you ascend, in range. So this is a very simple exercise, that i like to check in with sometimes, to make sure, that my jaw, is not over extending, but also. Isn't completely, tense. And staying, shut, in a way that's, also counterproductive. In a sense it's a trick of the mind. You take your fingers, and make two hooks like this and put them, on the side of your. Face, around the point. Where the jaw, mechanism. Opens. And as you. Sing an ascending, scale. I'd like you to just. Turn, your fingers, as if you are, turning, a cog, or a screw. And it just reminds, your jaw. To drop. Open. But in a really passive, way that isn't, putting, any, external, pressures, on the voice, and you can, do that action with each note, of the scale. So i'll demonstrate, first and then you can join in here we are, on an. R. My jaw is really out of the way. And i can wiggle it and feel that it is not. Getting involved in any active way, try that with me now if you'd like. Putting our fingers like that as, if they're about to turn a cog, and we'll start our scale, on an r. Ah. Here we. Go. Hopefully the sound is feeling really free, your larynx is feeling nice and low. And your jaw certainly doesn't feel like it's getting involved. The next thing i'd like to talk about. Is, tongue, tension. It's very easy for the tongue to get far too involved. And to start. Pulling back and pressing. On our vocal mechanism, on our larynx. In order to help our ear, believe that we're making, a better sound. It can be very seductive, because it allows us to really hear. The warmth of our voice. I'm literally, jamming, my tongue, down. Onto my larynx. And while that sounds great in my ear. It's not going to carry in a theater. And ultimately, it's going to lead to vocal fatigue. Really. Quickly. And here are a couple of exercises, which i like to check in with when i know that my tongue, is, getting, too involved. Getting too far down the back of my throat, and helps me to keep the tongue, light, and bouncing. And out of the way of the voice.
So This first exercise, may well be familiar to many of you it involves using a pencil. And, you want to put that pencil. At the. Base of your bottom lip. And then use your tongue to hold that pencil, in. Position. Now while you're doing that, already, you might well feel a really really good stretch. All the way through your tongue especially, at the back because it's not used to coming out this far. And. Then the trick, is to sing. A scale, an ascending, scale, probably an octave or more whatever you'd like or use a passage, from. An aria that you're working on. And, keep that pencil. In position, it may well be that your tongue starts to pull back as you ascend, that scale, or during higher parts of your, phrase. Uh. But the challenge is to keep, the tongue, in place, and to keep that pencil. From being dropped. See how we get on let's try this together. On an r. Ah. Pop your pencil in. Place. I only got halfway up that time because my tongue really wants to pull back. Let's go. Again. I don't know if you saw my tongue but it kept wanting to pull back as we were going up the scale and i was getting a really really good stretch. During that exercise. Hopefully. After you have performed an exercise, like that for a period of time. You'll find that phrases, become easier, and that you're certainly finding it easier, to get up, into the higher register. So the other exercise, that i'd like to show you, which involves, the tongue, is one which really encourages, the tongue, to stay. In a light floating, place in your mouth that is nice and high so that is keeping, out of the way of your vocal mechanism. And allowing as. Much space, as possible. Uh, in. In your throat, so that the sound can be generated, in a healthy way. So, this involves, using. Five vowels, that will be familiar, to you from the homework, that you were set, during your last lesson they are e. And. What i'd like to do to start with is ask you to just say. The vowel, e. E. And notice, where your tongue, is in your mouth. E. Don't if you can see but my tongue. E. Is, nicely, between. My back molars, and that means that it is sitting, nice and high in my mouth. E. Now the challenge, in this exercise. Is to. Encouraging. It encourage, the tongue to stay, largely in that position, whilst. Saying or singing the other, vowels, and that can be, quite a strange experience, if it's new to you, let's try that all. Together. Especially, as we get towards, r and r. The tongue can really want to change. Its position, but see if you can encourage, it to just be in that same spot. E. Then of course we can take it into a vocalization. We're going to sing an ascending. And, descending, scale, on five notes. Try that with. Me. My tongue is really out of the way. And the resonance, is being felt, very much in my face but without me having to put it there which is really really crucial. Over time you may find that your tongue, very happily, just realigns, into that position. Uh, all of the time. But if it doesn't it's a really useful exercise, to come back to and certainly, in your warming up to encourage, the tongue to. Remember, what it's like to not be stuck. In the back of your throat. So that's it for this week, my homework, to you is to simply try some of these exercises. During. Your uh daily practice, uh get on the floor for 10 minutes before, you.
Start Singing at the beginning of the day, or during a rehearsal, break, or over lunch or, even during a performance, if you're able to perform at the moment, and of course taking take some of those other exercises, that we've explored today into just your your daily singing, be it during, uh practicing, in aria, or during a rehearsal. And, that some of them may work for you more than others and it's completely fine if they don't all work, keep the ones that do discard the ones that don't we're all different. Um and i hope that they might just, encourage. Your vocal mechanism, and your body, to be able to keep, your glass, clean. Thank you so much to eto, for, preparing, this series and for asking me to be part of it, and, i hope that we will all see each other either. From on a stage, or from an audience in the not too distant future, bye for, now.