Not a pretty picture with all those muscles exposed, I suppose. However, I freely admit that I am fascinated with anatomy. I even have an anatomy coloring book lying around somewhere, which I spent serious time coloring with a box of crayons—all the better to visualize the muscles of the face and body. My pursuit, of course, was initiated by the experience of proprioception, which simply means that I feel things when I am singing. That said, I'm not under the illusion that I can control these feelings, at least, not directly—not that I haven't tried! I mean, who hasn't at one time or another? Young students, especially, are prone to operating under the belief that they can—and should—exert direct control over their physiology. Oh, the hours spent trying to raise one's soft palate, find enough support, tighten this or relax that muscle. Once you enter the labyrinth, it can be difficult to find your way out. One liberating thought was uttered by my teacher:
You can't control the voice: you can only control what it wants.
I came to the conclusion that the "what" of "what it wants" was the key to understanding her thought, one I have found to be extremely helpful. With that in mind, what is one thing the voice wants?
You thought I was going to say a good breath, didn't you? Ha! That would be too easy.
If you've been reading these pages, you know of the Lamperti School teaching of inhaling for 18 seconds. You also know that I've suggested the student pay attention to the feelings that arise once 10 or 12 seconds have been reached. Why is this important? Because, the good stuff happens after that. That's when the "ear" of the body is fully engaged: when the spine extends in both directions and the ribs fully open. When I ask students how their muscles feel at just this moment, they utter one of two words: lifted and inflated. Sometimes they even say: "My muscles are standing up!" When I ask them to tell me where they have this feeling, they report that it is a global one. Once they have a moment to take their own words in, I suggest to them that this feeling is independent of the amount of air in their lungs, and can be felt throughout the process of inhalation and exhalation. Of course, they hardly know what I mean until I blow out all the air in my lungs (there is always some left—it should be noted), and sing a scale in full voice that ends with a trill.
That gets their attention.