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Proper posture is incredibly important when you’re singing. In fact, aligning your body correctly is a basic requirement for singing well and freely. So what’s the right posture? And what do you do when you want to move around or play an instrument while you sing?

Heads Up

The information in this blog can be difficult to put into practice correctly, especially since it’s easy to think you’re doing it right without being aware of any small mistakes that you might be making. As such, if you aspire to become a (professional) singer, we would advise you to take lessons with an experienced vocal coach. This’ll also help you progress faster.

Proper Singing: The Basics

“Posture and breathing are the basics for proper singing. Breathing will be much easier when your posture is correct, so both aspects are clearly intertwined,” says singer and vocal coach, Sabine Brachthäuser. Just to be clear, while we’ll be explaining proper singing posture here, that’s not to say you’re forced to stay in a certain position while you sing. It’s normal for singers to move during a performance instead of standing frozen behind the mic stand. Nevertheless, it’s best to get an idea of the basics first and go from there.

Extend Your Body

The correct basic posture starts with being aware of the way you stand up straight, Sabine explains. “From there, you want to make adjustments as needed. Place your feet at hip width so your upper body is properly supported by your legs. Keep your knees from locking but don’t bend them too much either. Most importantly, lengthen your body as if there’s a cord connected to your crown, pulling you toward the ceiling. This usually opens up the neck and chest.” Since we’re often slumped in everyday life, extending yourself from the top of your head will lengthen your neck. “To be able to sing well, it’s essential that the muscles that you extend are active while the other muscles remain relaxed. So, unless you’re a dancer, whatever you do, do not tighten your abs.” The trick is to be in an active and relaxed posture at the same time, where part of your body is extending upwards while the other part is focussed on rooting you to the floor. “This can be quite an ordeal,” says Sabine. “A lot of beginners either have a crooked stance or put too much weight on one leg. It’s important that you lift your sternum, kind of like you’re proudly showing off a new necklace. Chances are you won’t be able to pull this off right away. It takes some effort and practice but, eventually, it’ll come from the inside.”

Natural Posture

While the natural singing posture we’re describing here is healthy, it doesn’t come naturally for most people. “I know people who, through improving their posture, significantly alleviated neck pain. Sometimes, physical therapy is needed to loosen everything up first,” Sabine says. “I also know that adopting better posture can be very liberating for people.” To sum up the basic singing posture again: feet at hip width; slightly bent knees; arms hanging loosely at the sides of the body; relaxed shoulders; relaxed throat (so that your mouth falls open naturally); relaxed facial muscles; and a relaxed tongue. Avoid a Michelin Man-type posture where you pump up and tense your torso. “Relaxing the right muscles keeps you from lifting your larynx. A lifted larynx diminishes your sound, making your voice sound strained. Due to the stress of everyday life, your larynx might sit a little higher by default. Bringing it down will help you feel the connection between your larynx and the rest of your body.”

Relaxing the Face

“Eventually you’ll want your facial muscles to relax as well,” Sabine continues. “It’s important that you learn to feel the difference between contracted muscles and relaxed muscles. While it’s a lengthy process, it’s vital that you become aware of the signals in your body.” A relaxed face is characterised by a relaxed jaw (so unclenched); relaxed lips (mouth may be open or closed but don’t smile); relaxed tongue (so it rests on the bottom of your mouth); relaxed cheeks; and a relaxed forehead (so no frowning). What helps to relax your jaw is massaging the muscles you use to chew. That’s because tense chewing muscles can significantly limit facial relaxation. This wraps up basic singing posture which, as you can tell, is actually a natural posture that most of us simply unlearn in the course of life. That being said, it’s important to realise that proper posture isn’t a tool for singing well or in tune. It’s a condition you need to meet to help your vocal cords do their work naturally. And it’s necessary for being able to apply techniques that help you sing well. “No matter how good or natural your posture is, singing will always be hard work,” Sabine remarks.


We now shift our focus from posture to breathing, which is another key aspect of singing. “A correct posture plays into natural, unrestricted breathing,” Sabine says. “When you’re slumped, your natural breathing gets limited. To support an effective inhale and exhale, you want your chest to be able to expand, which can only happen when you make yourself taller.” Diving in a little deeper, we can distinguish between different ways of breathing. There’s clavicular breathing, which is characterised by raising the shoulders and collar bones, which isn’t very effective since it raises the larynx and, as explained before, is something you want to avoid. Then there’s diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, which is the best way to breathe but can only be done when you assume an ‘extended’ posture as mentioned above.

Moving and Singing

“Every beginner vocalist would be wise to work on their posture and breathing first,” Sabine believes. “Once you grasp the importance and you have increased control over your body, you can start learning how to move and sing at the same time. Start by walking around a little while paying attention to your posture and breathing.” Singing will always become more difficult the moment you move. “Try not to shift your weight from one leg to the other too extremely,” Sabine advises. “Also, if there’s no way around moving and singing at the same time and you already know you’re going to be struggling, just keep it simple and go for more stripped-down vocals. Make conscious movements and be aware of what you’re doing.” Thankfully, everything can be trained and improved. “As soon as you pull off those first steps while singing, your confidence will get a boost”, Sabine knows. More prudent performances naturally require restraint, so for these you’ll want to underact a little when it comes to the way you present yourself. In this case, it’s all about finding a healthy compromise between proper posture and restraint. If you’re not yet at a point where you can make moving and singing work, you can always move between lines. Or move only when you’re singing something simple.

Playing and Singing

Here, we’re limiting the scope to drummers, guitarists, bassists and keyboardists. “Drummers are naturally in the right position for singing,” says Sabine. “The active upper body of a drummer puts them in the correct position to sing. Make sure you rest on your sitting bones and don’t lean back or forward too much. Remember that you need to sit up straight to breathe properly, and don’t forget about the position of your microphone. The microphone needs to sit directly in front of you, preferably in such a way that you’re forced to lengthen your neck.” Then there’s keyboardists. “Keyboard players like to look at their keys, meaning they have a tendency to bend over slightly which doesn’t promote proper breathing. For keyboardists, the trick would be to bend over from the pelvis instead of the upper back and find the best compromise between optimum singing posture and the optimum playing position. Whatever you do, never slump and don’t place the microphone too far away.” Do guitarists and bassists have it easier because they’re standing? “Guitarists and bassists also hunch over a little when they’re playing their instrument. They also push one of their shoulders forward a little, leaving less room for optimal breathing. I would advise the same as before: always be aware of your posture and go for the best compromise between optimum singing posture and the optimum playing position. And look down as little as possible so your breathing doesn’t suffer. Take Sting. He’s always keeping perfectly straight when he plays and sings at the same time.”

Make a Step-by-Step Plan

It’s important to realise that playing an instrument and singing at the same time will almost certainly come at the expense of your expression. To make things easier for yourself, Sabine recommends following a step-by-step plan. “If you’re singing lead vocals, focus on the vocals first. Only once you have those down should you focus on your instrumental parts. Start out by lip syncing your lines before you do any actual singing, and keep constant tabs on your posture. Once you have everything under control, you can start to combine it all.” Want to learn more? Check out our article: How to Sing and Play at the Same Time.

Good to Know

Tips for Extending Your Neck

Extending your neck is essential for singing well since it creates more room for your larynx, so the area where your vocals are produced. To help extend your neck, you can do the following: assume an active position and let your head fall forward. Then, put your hand on your neck and spread out your fingers before lifting your head up again and making sure that your fingers remain spread out. If this is too difficult for you, then just imagine you’re a giraffe.

That Poor Dancer

Dancers are trained to keep their abs engaged at all times, which actually makes it hard to sing. Sabine: “Seriously tightening your abs leaves little room for your diaphragm to expand, making it harder to breathe properly. I once had a professional dancer who took lessons with me. Once she managed to relax her abs to allow for diaphragmatic breathing, her belly immediately started rumbling. Not because she was hungry, but because the diaphragmatic breathing released the tension. It’s actually really healthy as it basically massages your organs.

See Also

» Microphones & Accessories
» Vocal Books
» Vocal Effects
» Speakers

» Vocal Harmonies: A Few Tips & Some Theory
» Mixing Flawless Vocals in 5 Steps

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