How does one develop an internal feel for what sounds good? How do you learn to use all of yourself when singing? What is the relationship between the felt sense (kinesthetic), effort, and good sound? These are the questions that led to this book, Singing With Your Whole Self. And curiously enough, they are questions that seem not to be addressed in books on the teaching of voice.
The voice pedagogical literature contains numerous exercises to assist students of voice in the development and teaching of voice. But nowhere is there an in-depth exploration of developing kinesthetic sensitivity, what this does for sound, and how to bring all of one’s self into use while singing.
There are 18 full-length lessons in the book. The lessons have been broken down into 8 to 10 minute modules. Below is the first module from the lesson,
Relating Head and Pelvis. This lesson aids vocalist by helping them to get their power from the pelvic region, and in positioning the head for a free and open sound. If you are a singer, vocalize both before and after doing this module and notice the changes.
- Sit in a chair that has a firm, flat bottom. Gently raise and lower your head. Go only as far as you can comfortably. Do not force your head back or push to touch your chin to your sternum. Just allow yourself to feel what your comfortable range is. Repeat this movement 2 times. Pause a moment.
Now begin rocking your pelvis forward and backward so that your back rounds and arches. Do this 3 times. Be certain that you lead this movement with your pelvis. Pause and rest for a moment.
- Slowly turn your head left and right several times. How far does it go in each direction? How easy is it to turn your head? Raise your right hip slightly. Did you do this by lifting up on the right or putting the weight down through your left buttock? Raise your right hip 2 more times, focusing on putting the weight down through the left buttock. Pause and rest.
Now raise the left hip slightly 3 times focusing on putting the weight down through the right buttock. Stop and rest. Notice how you are sitting now. How is your weight distributed? How heavy does your head feel?
- Slowly rock your pelvis forward, arching the back as you raise your head. Repeat this 4 times pausing after each movement for as long as it takes to make the movement. Did you lead this movement with your pelvis or your head? Repeat this movement and switch the lead. How did this feel? Can you tell now why it is preferable to lead with the powerful pelvic muscles when there is a choice?
Leading with the pelvis, slowly round your back and look down with your head. Repeat this 3 times. Pause for a moment.
Now combine the two movements so that you rock forward and back with your pelvis as you look up and down. Go slowly and see if you can allow this to be a unified movement where both the head and pelvis move through their range at the same time. Repeat 4 times. Sense how you are sitting now. What are your thought patterns like now?
- Turn your head to the left as you raise your right hip. Repeat this 4 times having the sense that the weight goes down through the left hip to lift the right. Now turn your head to the right as your left hip rises. What does your chest do as you make this movement? Repeat the movement 4 more times. Pause for a moment.
Combine these movements so your head goes left and right as the opposite hip rises. Repeat 3 to 5 times until you have a sense that this is smooth and easy. Rest.
Turn your head left and right. How does this feel now? What has changed since the first time you made this movement? When you are ready, stand up, walk around, and see how this feels.
Dr. Nelson is a graduate of the Toronto Professional Feldenkrais® Training Program (1987). He has held a seminar on the Feldenkrais Method® each semester at the Eastman School of Music for the past thirteen years. He has presented seminars at music schools in Indiana and Ohio, and has presented workshops for musicians at several area high schools. He has a private practice in Rochester, New York, and also works part time in a pain clinic.