Tag Archives: body

The Face

A singer’s face is a map. When the audience closes its eyes, her face should burn through their eyelids. I love faces. All my life I’ve studied them. Staring is a tool of the trade. The face relays the health of the body and the soul. A doctor always knows when we have a fever, and an audience always knows when we’re lying. Watching a singer sing one song and express another is distressing. The muscles of the face, the eyes, the mouth, all convey the depth of one’s inner commitment, or lack thereof.

The eyes that sing…they greet us or reject us, they are cool, confused, accusing, defending, stroking, killing. The eyes that ask and answer, that open and close, that look out through wide orbs or narrow slants…they glow and throw sparks. What an excellent instrument we performers have who know how to use them.

And the mouth – especially the mouth of a woman! It is the top of the instrument, the keyhole, the promise. What opportunities lie therein! What bewitching expressions, coyness, humor, spirit, tenderness, lust, mystery, excitement! And pride, arrogance, greed, revenge…all played out on two bands of red flesh. It is the mouth of a lover, a mother, a muse. An incredible instrument that one can lighten or darken through the precise showing of teeth, pretty teeth or deadly teeth, whose gleam can seduce. The audience loves a good mouth, especially on a singer.

photo: rand alhadeff

Carriage and Silhouette

From her first appearance on stage, before an artist has done anything to prove her talent, her posture will inform the audience. Even the grandest of introductions from a master of ceremony will be compromised if she walks on slouching. The performance begins with the first part of her that enters – her big toe, her index finder, her forehead, a prop – and ends with the last thing to leave – her heel, her rear, her index finger, her coat, her skirt.

A singer must know how to move on stage, how to hold the head, the shoulders, the hands, where to place the feet. This isn’t always taught in voice classes, but it is taught in the theater. And one can study it in the mirror. It is said that a singer is ready for the stage when she is able to sing in front of a mirror naked.

Joe's Pub 2

How to hold oneself upright and what to do with the body, ought to be partly rehearsed and partly left to the moment. Being comfortable on stage, in one’s silhouette or costume, and feeling relaxed and in one’s power is what creates natural movement. Nervousness is expressed through awkward movements, fidgeting and lack of intention.

Sometimes a gesture or some patter will emerge from the creative flow and feel completely wrong. One should commit it to memory as a thing not to be repeated. Sometimes a gesture or some patter happens that feels completely right. It should go into the reference manual in one’s mind, ready to be accessed again. If something really unique and sublime happens, it should be taken home and rehearsed until it is natural. Grace is a thing you can learn if you aren’t born with it.

As important as carriage is the silhouette: how a singer looks, what she embodies, her physical style, her costume. I found my silhouette among the characters and the era of my songs. I love details and the era provides an abundance of them. Since my repertoire is diverse and rangy, I must choose an ensemble that will suit the many songs in the program. It is important that one’s silhouette reveal something of what one feels inside. Clothes can be worn or they can be expressed.

The Breath

Singing is placing music on the breath.

Breathing is a matter of never-ending visualization, exercise and practice. We practice by alternating between taking in air slowly and quickly, holding it as long as possible, and regulating its rapid or gradual release. Breathing should not draw attention to itself but be relaxed and effortless. Deep breathing is by nature relaxing to the body. Shallow and quick breathing is invigorating and energizing.

A teacher of mine once suggested that the ultimate goal is to sing through 24 measures on a single breath. Learning how best to breathe is the challenge that every song provides.

Knowing where to breathe is easy when one is singing for words, for then the natural breaks reveal themselves automatically in the cadence of the language. To help me identify the best places to breathe inside a song, I speak the text aloud as I am learning it. As much as skiing is just another way of walking, singing is just another way of talking.

All the air we need to sing with is there. It exists in abundance in the space around our heads, our bodies. And all the time we need for getting the right amount of air is always there as well. Trusting in this comes simply with experience.

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