Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog: April 2013

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Using Hands For Singing and Speaking



Your voice needs your whole physical and emotional being to sing or speak best. Today I'd like to focus on the use of hands - without which our voice is missing out.

The first time I actually noticed the importance of singing with my hands was many years ago when an unenlightened recording engineer told a group of us singing background to keep our hands perfectly still so we wouldn't move a fraction of an inch from the mic. I noticed it shut me down vocally. I lost range, tone color and control. Since then I've dug into why.

Your hands are connected to your arms, which are connected to your spine which is connected to your ribcage which is connected to the edges of your diaphragm. What we do or don't do with hands can affect the diaphragm, which is the organ that is responsible for balance of breath support & control, which is at least in part responsible for nearly everything you can think of that's important to the voice.

But to work most efficiently, the diaphragm needs help. First of all, we shouldn't feel our voices 'coming from there'... instead, we need low pelvic floor power that should help open, not tighten the ribcage. Then, we can use our hands! Try the following:
  • 1. Hang your hands limply at your sides. Notice the relative lowness of the ribcage. Now simply rotate your hands, palm away from thighs. This alone should cause your ribcage to expand.
  • Again with hands hanging loosely, try ever so slightly moving hands back so you can lightly press the back of your hands or your thumbs behind your thighs for a hard note. This can help you keep your ribcage open even in choir or group situations where you are required to keep hands 'still'. (Not my cup of tea!)
  • Bring your hands up waist high. Now move your elbows back. That also should open your ribcage.
  • Press your fingertips into each other lightly, and notice you can stabilize the opening of your ribcage. This represents what your guitar, piano or microphone can do if you use your hands in ways that open your ribcage.
  • Try being overly communicative and really talk with your hands. Don't push people away with your hand language, invite them in, express passion, bring your hand way out from your side, above your head... but whatever you do, make what you to do open your ribcage. You can then tweak your hand movements so they communicate but don't distract from what your voice is doing. (It's an art, not a science, people... experiment! :)
  • And lastly, notice what great singers and speakers do with their hands. Different ways of using hands work better for different people, different settings and different musical genres. Some styles use larger hand movements, some are quite subtle. But if the voice is working well, the hands are NOT hanging limply dragging the ribcage down. Experiment and use what works for you to open your ribcage. Oh, and it should help open your throat, too, if you're doing it right.
What works for you?

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