‘Support’ in singing – ‘Anchoring‘
There is a lot of discussion in singing around ‘support’. Some people call it breath support or support from the diaphragm. The concept of supporting from your diaphragm has long been proven obsolete. However, I still have people come to me saying they want to learn to breathe through their diaphragm. My reply to them is ‘you already know how to breathe from your diaphragm otherwise you would not be sitting in front of me’. This is because the diaphragm naturally contracts when you inhale (breathe in) and relaxes when you exhale (breathe out).
Weather you are a tummy breather, a chest breather or a tummy/chest breather doesn’t really matter for singing. What really matters is how we control the breath on the way out. Also, the breath needs to respond to the vocal task at hand. Hence, how much air you will need will depend on what and how you want to sing a certain part of a song. This differs significantly between different voice qualities. Controlling breath flow on the way out while voicing is a completely different topic all together.
There is however truth to the fact that we need support in singing. Mainly when singing outside of our speaking range, i.e. when taking our larynx outside of its comfort zone. We have two support structures that we can make use of when signing. Which one we use (or both) depends on the vocal task at hand.
Both types of anchoring require good postural alignment, if this is not the case due to back or neck problems please refrain from doing the below exercises.
Head and Neck anchoring 1
The head and neck houses the larynx. Activating muscles in head and neck will provide stability so the larynx can move freely, it will also provide vocal strength.
There are numerous muscles that we engage with head and neck anchoring: the sternocleidomastoid muscles (at the side of the neck), a group of muscles in the nape of the neck and muscles running up to the head from the cervical spine, and lastly muscles inside the vocal tract (muscles controlling the soft palate or velum).
Prompts for engaging head and neck anchoring:
- flaring your nostrils
- imagining a tent inside your head that pops up
- sucking a thick shake through a straw
- pushing your head against the back of your seat
- pushing your forehead against your fist that is anchored on your forehead
- going for a sneeze
Try different prompts and see which one works best for you. When head and neck anchoring is correctly engaged you will feel sensations in the following places: the back of your neck, the side of your neck, across the face from nose to ears, in the roof of the mouth behind upper teeth.
Torso anchoring 2
The torso or trunk of the body houses the trachea and lungs and includes bones and muscles of the back. Since all muscles that control movement of breath are in the torso or connect to it, alignment and posture of the torso influences tone, breath and strength.
Prompts for engaging torso anchoring:
- pulling your shoulders down
- pushing ski sticks into the ground
- pressing oranges under your arm
As with head and neck anchoring see which prompt works best for you.
Try sirening up and down your range without any anchoring (but good postural alignment). Now try sirening with head and anchoring, was it easier getting higher? Siren with torso anchoring, was it easier getting higher?
Hopefully this clarified the question about ‘Support’ in singing – Anchoring.
1 K. Steinbauer, M. McDonald Klimek, J. Estill, The Estill Voice Model Theory and Translation, p.188 ff, 2017 Pittsburgh.
2 K. Steinbauer, M. McDonald Klimek, J. Estill, The Estill Voice Model Theory and Translation, p. 200 ff, 2017 Pittsburgh.