Isolation Exercise: Isolating the Mid-Section
(You should have read Tip No. 2 'Be conscious' for you to really understand this particular post.)
*Ok, this is not an AB Crunch Instruction. The image is just to attract you. :)) Seriously, this is Part 3 of my "Be An Asset Series" for choral singers. :)
Our purpose is to maximize and maintain the breadth of our (human) sounding board (to produce a free and ringing voice very conducive to choral singing) without stiffening in all other areas. For the inexperienced, when you expand your ribcage and attempt to hold it while you continue breathing and singing, you may find it hard to relax on some other areas as the chest, neck, face, scalp, arms, even legs. It may be very evident in the chest and neck, but if you become very sensitive to it, you may be surprised to find that even the scalp and facial muscles can be under undue stress. Facial tic, headache, during or after singing, anyone?
For the process to be all-natural, our body needs to be used to the routine. MHM! Muscles have memory. Yes, they do. So, our best shot is to train them. How? By employing the Muscle Isolation Technique. Upon mastery, the next time you stand up to sing, your body would automatically shift to 'singing mode' meaning every body part will synch to provide you, the singer, with the state of the art sounding board, so to speak.
In the gym or at the exercise corner in your home you learned to isolate certain muscle or body part from the rest of the body to maximize the full benefit of certain exercises. E. g. as you do arm curls with a dumbbell, you learned to keep your upper arm (bicep) glued to your sides, never allowing it to swing in front of your profile. That way your biceps really get worked out to the core. You may find every tiny string of muscle tingling with the stress. You do not let your arms 'cheat' so as to really benefit from the exercise. That's the point. Isolate.
So, let's try it. Stand or sit erect (do not sit back), keep your alignments as if you have a string attached at the center top of your head to the ceiling. Breathe in three large amounts of air without exhaling in between. As your lungs fill up, you may also feel your muscles grow taut and stiff; the chest, neck, upper arm, and facial muscles to mention some. Hopefully you also feel your back ribs while doing this routine. If you reached this point, you are doing fine. Now start to relax all the previously mentioned muscles while maintaining the wide midsection. Keep doing it until what is left un-relaxed is your ribcage and abdominals (I prefer to combine the two and call it midsection). Once you enter this point, REMEMBER the feeling. Relax everything afterwards.
Now, do it again but do so by springing back directly to the REMEMBERED feeling; i.e. a wide and taut midsection minus any contraction anywhere else. Now, 'open the masque' i.e. defy the gravity's pull from your facial muscles. Put a sparkle in your eyes and keep a pleasant countenance. There.
Remember that people will never notice what you just did. So don't worry that you would look like a cadet trainee on attention when you need to do it before singing. What they would see is a person exuding calm and confidence.
Keep that 'hollow' feeling in the midsection, never allowing the ribcage to sag through the entire length of the song; remember what I said about those 3rd and 4th images here. There is always the right way to sing. Keep growing in your singing knowledge. Till next time.