“Mirror, mirror on the wall…”
You’ve seen the mirrors in each of our teaching rooms at Songbird. Why? What can a mirror really tell you? A lot, actually… As teachers and vocal coaches, we can see a lot from just watching you sing. In this article, we’re going to outline the things we look for when a student comes in, and how you can review these in your own singing at home in your mirror!
Here’s what to watch for in your gorgeous reflection:
The word “posture” can sometimes come on a little too strong – and we’ve seen it cause people to stiffen up and manipulate their bodies in an unnatural way. Instead, think about your alignment – look in the mirror. Does your chin tip up when you sing? Are you standing more on one foot than the other? Are your shoulders slumped forward? Are your knees locked? Take a deep breath, reach your arms up to the sky, and then shake out your limbs on the exhale. Bounce gently a bit, find a slightly loose bend in both your knees and let your body settle into its natural alignment. You’re looking for what FEELS good and in the mirror you want to see symmetry, relaxed muscles, and ease.
Take a big inhale as if you’re about to sing and watch what your body does. Do you tense up? Do your shoulders raise? Does your stomach move? You know that feeling after you sprint around the block and you stop to catch your breath? You’re taking quick, shallow breaths with your shoulders moving along with the breath. That’s great for your body getting quick oxygen, but it’s the opposite of what we want when we sing. When we breathe for singing we want to bring awareness around a gentle lower expansion of your lungs, so our diaphragm is fully engaged and the upper body, shoulders and neck don’t hold any extra tension.
Speaking of tension – sing a song and watch yourself in the mirror. What’s going on with your neck? Do you see any crazy veins popping out? How about your arms and your shoulders? Are they locked in one place or do you have flexibility in them? Do you see anywhere else in your body where your muscles are unnecessarily contracting or any place you might be holding tension? Flexibility and relaxation are your two best friends when it comes to singing. So if you’re seeing any places in your body that are holding tension – shake them out! Try to focus on release – then sing again. Still not fully relaxed? Another trick is to give your muscles a different task – for example if you’re noticing tension in your neck, try moving your head back and forth while you sing. Giving stubborn muscles another task can help disconnect that tension from your voice.
Vowel & Mouth Shape
If I had a penny for every time I told a singer to “Drop your jaw, open your mouth!” I would be driving a Tesla by now (yup, this model). You’d be surprised how many students come in and sing, but barely crack their mouths open – and sometimes they even tense their jaw to lock it mostly closed. Spoiler alert – if you want to be heard, you gotta OPEN YOUR MOUTH! Don’t be afraid, dive into that fear – we want to her you! Share your voice with us! Granted, not every lyric, word or vowel requires a giant oval lip opening, but in general your mouth shape should be relaxed, open and your jaw should be loose. Try opening up and listen as your sound improves!
Got the physical improvements down? The mirror can help you take your stage presence to the next level. Grab a mic (or a hairbrush) and PERFORM a song. Did you move at all? Were your eyes closed the whole time? How were you holding your, ahem, microphone? Were you emoting? What was your facial expression like? Were you interesting to watch? The only way to get better at performing and stage presence is to practice. And don’t forget that everything needs to be magnified on stage. That little eyebrow movement you threw in after the first verse? Well no one saw it in the back row. All your movements need to be dramatized – taken to another level – emoted from across the room! Don’t be afraid to really exaggerate!
These five tips are just the beginning – we LOVE using the mirror as a singing tool. Let us know if you agree!
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About the Blog
The Official Blog of Songbird Studios in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA. We offer singing lessons, voice lessons, vocal coaching, songwriting workshops, group classes, summer camps, and performance showcases in Nob Hill, Noe Valley & Sunset; San Francisco, CA.