managing muscles

You're going to hate me for saying this, though, come to think of it, you may love me too, if only because it lets you off the hook. What's that? The simple fact that you can't manage your muscles. Yes, you can watch what they do from a safe (mental) distance, but you are fooling yourself if you think you can control them directly.

Let's take the inner muscles of the larynx. They respond to thought, not manipulation. And by thought, I mean your mental conception of tone, that is, what you hear in your head.

Funny. I never tell a student to listen, which may sound strange since I emphasis "listening" a great deal on these pages. No, I don't insist that students listen, which would make them self conscious and shut down the very ability I endeavor to awaken. Rather, I simply give them exercises and experiences which develop their listening skill—a very different thing.

Regarding this matter of managing muscles: most singers and singing teachers don't think of it this way, but experience has shown me that the ear determines the "shape"of the body and mouth of the singer. Pushing on this and that muscle? That's like trying to shove a tree back into the acorn after it's burst open and and grown thirty feet into the air. To be sure: you can manipulate your way when you sing, but that's taking the long road. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Motor-learning research has borne this out as well: Trying to control physiology directly takes three times as long! This makes sense actually, if only because, if you are trying to "do" something your eye isn't on the ball anymore. And what is the ball? The vowel you are singing—for god's sake

Think about it. Can you fix a tone when you get off track in the middle of a phrase? Nope. To make things right, you have to stop, take a breath, and start all over again. That's how it works. All that pushing on your abs may give you the feeling that you are doing something, but believe me, it's not. You are simply tying yourself in knots. 

Want to know what gets your voice going?

Try this.

Investigate the feelings that arise when you breath in through your nose slowly for 18 seconds. When you get past 10 or so, you will feel very specific changes in your body (if you can attend to your feelings, and not 1) freak out, or 2) zone out).

My advice? Don't mess with your feelings. Don't intellectualize them. Just let them be. However, do be able to access those feelings, the same ones you have after you reach 10 or 12 seconds when inhaling through your nose for 18 seconds. Be able to access them during a whole phrase, a whole song or aria—even during the silences. Many feel "lifted" during this exercise, both physically and psychologically. Of course, the Old Italian School had its its own term for this body/mind event: inhalare la voce. In Tomatis terms, this is nothing less than an expansion of the listening capacity of the ear and brain. 

He who knows how to breath and pronounce, knows how to sing.  —Anna Maria Celoni Pellegrini


  1. "This makes sense actually, if only because, if you are trying to "do" something your eye isn't on the ball anymore."
    Thank you, this gives me a good analogy for students. I am enjoying these posts and look forward to each one.
    — Marcellina

    1. Thank you for your comment, Marcelllna! Wishing you a wonderful Valentine's Day!


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