Cathy Madden, one of the great Alexander Technique teachers says,
“You can never do nothing.”
We are often told as singers to stop doing this and stop that. When someone points out an unhelpful action your attention is now on that action and your mind will zoom in. If I suggest there is a pink elephant in the room, then I tell you not to look at it, where does your attention go? It goes to the pink elephant! If I don’t mention the pink elephant but invite you to become aware of your feet and the earth that is supporting them, your attention will draw away from the “don’t do that” idea. In giving you a constructive idea, you have something to regularly rely on. You can then return to this thinking each time.
Even when we come to stillness and stop pushing/pulling/pressing things for our singing, there is still a LOT going on. We can never do nothing. The question becomes, what CAN I do? I suggest that your “doing” begins with “do it” thoughts. Think of your back lengthening and widening, but don’t actively try to do it. Invite awareness of the head floating up and away, allow the idea of the spine and jaw dangling below it. These are not physical doings but invitations of thoughts of physical awareness that will affect our bodies.
Try changing your intentions. Instead of thinking about what you can do, think about what you can un-do. Do you notice a tightening at the back of your neck as you sing high notes? Ask yourself to release that area. Do you notice your abdominal muscles gripping with the onset of tone, or when you need a more supported sound (High notes, I’m looking at you!)? Ask yourself to have a mild engagement there instead of gripping and tightening. In the case of the abs, bring awareness to the muscles of the pelvic floor, or the pelvic bowl. Allow release of the pelvic floor as the breath drops in and with the onset of tone invite awareness of the wide back.
In our educational system, we learn by adding facts to our knowledge base. The Alexander Technique (AT) is really about subtraction. Using AT we begin to notice unnecessary muscular actions that have crept their way into our singing and life. We bring in constructive ideas to replace the old habits. The next time you brush your teeth notice what happens in your shoulders. When you carry something heavy, where do your shoulders go and is it necessary? Can you use the thought of your back lengthening instead?
Pull this up, push that out. Many of us want to “do” something to make our singing better. Try bringing in constructive thoughts instead that support your natural design and let us know what happens.