Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Singers and tension…preparing to sing tension free!

In response to my article last week about the value of arm extension aiding with “unsticking” a singer’s sound, Ian brings up an interesting point:  jaw tension.

In my experience the more I have a student engaging their body in a relaxed way, the less tense they are.  I find that with most of my singers body movement actually eases tension, and asking them to stand still and motionless (particularly singers early to mid-way in their technique development) causes them to be more tense riddled.  I do find, as Ian suggested, that with my more advanced singers who have already shed excess shoulder tension and unnecessary body tension, that the first place we find tension is in the jaw.

Some exercises I use regularly with my singers to help prepare them to sing without jaw, neck or shoulder tension are as follows:

1.  Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and flat on the floor, hands by your side, two steps back from the piano or music stand.  Tuck your chin and begin to slowly roll down on a count of 8 – vertebrae by vertebrae – until your hands are at or near the floor letting your arms hang freely.  Hang in this position and swing your arms slightly ensuring your shoulders are relaxed and you are breathing freely.  Move your jaw side-to-side and in a chewing motion to ensure it is tension free.  Bring yourself back to center then slowly roll up – to a count of 8 – imagining re-stacking your vertebrae one on top of the other.

2. Move straight into a shoulder roll – forward for a count of 8 – and back for a count of 8.  Pay attention to free breathing and lack of jaw tension.

3. Next twist to the side with your upper body – feet still parallel and shoulder width knees soft -and hold for a few beats – while breathing freely and moving your jaw freely, then repeat on the other side.

4.  Finish by shaking out your limbs- think Michael Phelps pre-swim!

About the Author

Wendy Morgan Hunter
Wendy Morgan Hunter is a soprano, music director, conductor, and private voice teacher. Wendy has performed opera, oratorio, jazz and musical theatre across the United States, from New York’s Lincoln Center to Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre, and recently in Europe. She studied with Erie Mills and has sung under the direction of Maestro Roger Wagner, Dr. Thomas Summerville, Dr. Paul Salamonovic... [Read more]

1 Comment

  1. Klaus Georg

    Hot topic… Just did one on jaw and neck tension as well. Of course, the best solution is to improve vocal coordination and sing more easily. But Loosening up before and during a lesson (or a concert) has helped me a lot. I do a stretch similar to this before every performance!

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