Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Mind Control and Singing - "It's All in the Mind". A Look at the Science of Singing.
1. Neural Mechanisms (nerves and direct communication between the brain and nerves and muscles)
The craft of singing involves making reflexive muscular movements conscious or voluntary. A reflexive movement is something that the body does without us thinking about it such as the heart beating. A conscious movement is something our mind tells our body to do such as reach for the water bottle and pick it up.
One of the main reflexive movements we learn to make voluntary is the lowering of the position of the larynx to sing. Singing teachers discuss the idea of yawning, but stopping the yawn before it happens or relax the larynx and 'open the throat' on the inhalation and keep it that way during singing. This is a learned response that we make voluntary by retraining the brain to send the message and training our muscles to do so.
Another main reflexive response that singers learn to control with their mind to make it a voluntary movement involves breath control. We innately breathe (unconscious or reflexive muscular activity). In singing, we learn to control the breath and the length of inhale, rate of exhaling to sustain a phrase, and keeping the breath relaxed and low. This mindful control of our breath also affects our posture and relaxation of muscles in our neck, shoulders, etc.
There are of course also other muscle actions which we are consciously aware of that we learn to coordinate with the reflexive responses above including contracting the abdominal muscles to initiate breath support, and keeping an open rib cage. Our mind controls so much!
By consciously having our brain send these new signals, we reset the norm for our body when we sing- "a low larynx for singing" and "low, relaxed breath with tall, open posture".
2. Hormonal Mind Control
The brain also releases chemicals to our body in response to things it experiences. This occurs in the mindful brain (the cortex) of the hypothalamus. It converts electrical impulses from the higher brain centers into chemical substances. It is how performance anxiety, excitement, or depression affects vocal performance. The chemicals emitted by the hypothalamus affect how our bodies respond to these situations. Here we must work on training the brain to consciously send signals to parts of the vocal tract that were previously affected, and become consciously aware of the signals these body parts send back to the brain. '
The emotional brain influences the momentary artistry of performance' (A. Jahn, Classical Singer, 2009). In other words, the chemistry that happens in our body at the moment affects our singing at that time. Through time and experience, each individual learns their bodies response to performance situations. Some are nervous and therefore adrenaline kicks in. When adrenaline is channeled into nervous energy and excitement rather than the fear that the voice will crack, it can be a positive influence on the actual sound that is created. If a singer knows that this is happening, they can learn how to use that energy (or chemical response) to their advantage. Nervousness can be channeled into excitement and energy to benefit the performance (just like a 5 year olds excitement about something can be consciously channeled into productive time) with repeated experiences. The more one performs. the better they learn to control their individual bodies response to stress or nerves. The better prepared a singer is with the musical material, the easier it is to channel it into positive energy.
The more in sync our bodies are with our minds, the better our singing can be! Take the time to get to know YOUR body and mind and how they interact to make your best music every!
Visit my website www.susanandersbrizick.com for more singing information.