THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
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A SINGER'S STORY
My journey with Alexander Technique
Alexander Technique has been extremely beneficial for me as a singer. I have always been conscious about my posture, trying to please singing tutors when being told ‘stand up straight’ or ‘find your alignment’. I found that in order to try and become a better singer and student, trying to find my natural alignment to support my sound, I began to see posture as a demon, as it never really felt quite right or natural. And more importantly I forgot about myself.
Lessons with Jane Gregory opened up my world and made me realise that posture and alignment, connecting with my body, is already all within me. Alexander Technique is all about undoing habits and embracing the natural state of the body. Jane helped me realise that there wasn’t anything wrong and that his demon I had created was just an unnecessary burden. In my understanding, I believe that many singers carry these demons around with them and that Alexander Technique could really help to evict these demons and leave space for your natural sound and well being.
By keeping an open mind and applying Alexander Technique my sound has become much more solid and ‘part of me’. I’ve found that I have more air and improved breath control. That by relaxing my body and finding my actual natural alignment, my approach to singing has become more relaxed. My confidence has grown and I finally begin to feel what my natural relationship with my body is.
Practising Alexander Technique has not only helped me as a singer but also as a person. I feel that my general well-being has improved. I’ve not only become more aware of where my tensions are and what triggers them, but also know how to release them. People around me have noticed the benefits that Alexander Technique has had on me as well. They’re commenting on how tall I look and how gracefully I carry myself. Confidence - booster!
I feel that working with Jane has given me great strength and belief in myself. She is extremely open minded and instantly makes you feel at ease. She approaches lessons with an understanding that we’re doing it together, rather than her telling me what to do. Every lessons feels like an exploration and discovery process. She has the unique skill for a teacher of letting you know that there is nothing wrong and that there is nothing I couldn’t do, but that we’re simply undoing things and that it’s all already within me. With Jane’s knowledge, support and encouragement I can begin to understand these things about myself. Her approach to Alexander Technique and her incredibly educational lessons have made me better at what I do and what I am about to do.
The following is a extract from a diary of lessons by Charlotta Larsen, kept while studying for MMus Performance (WBL) Degree
"You translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension"
Frederick Matthias Alexander
Alexander Technique forms the basis of this journey. I felt that the one thing that could improve numerous things for me as a singer would be this method. Posture being the foremost. By improving your posture, the rest of the body will follow. My goal was to attain a better posture, a more secure sense in my body, less tension in my body and overall openness. The result would be a better awareness of my body and a comfortable foundation for singing and natural expression.
Highlights from lessons with Jane Gregory
Even from my first lesson with Jane Gregory I knew that Alexander Technique would help me. Jane started by telling me that Alexander Technique lessons are not about being perfect. It’s about finding your natural alignment, going back to baby steps and undoing habits. Basically, the best thing you can do is to relax. I only realised the extent of my tension when I truly relaxed. It literally felt like I was carrying something on my shoulders, back and joints.
In the first lesson Jane sat me down, told me to hold out my hands and gave me a 5-litre bottle of water to hold. She said that it was the weight of my head and that I should imagine that weight at the top of my spine and why it’s therefore important to have a good alignment. She also told me that the spine is attached to the middle of the head and not to the back, so almost like a lollipop. These kinds of visualisation techniques really helped me to understand how my body is designed and that tension is really quite unnecessary as the body is constructed in such a way that it will work no matter what. I learned in lessons about Primary Control; the important relationship between my head, neck and torso and how that affects my entire body. I learned about the importance of being aware of your neck and to always think ‘free the neck’; releasing the tension. My task was to try and be aware of this in my daily routine, when brushing teeth, eating food, standing, watching TV etc.
Jane explains that by releasing the neck, the rest of the body will follow. The shoulders, the back, arms and all the way down to your feet. These little triggers really helped me to become more aware of my body and what my body is capable of. Jane explained that Semi-Supine is a technique that is extremely useful for Alexander students. You lie down on the floor, with your head raised 2 inches and let the body align itself by releasing and keep releasing tension. In lessons Jane would help to align and relax the body by adjusting the neck, arms, knees, feet etc. In my own routine at home I do the routine for about 10 minutes at a time and become aware of my body and relaxing it.
Alexander Technique in singing
In my opinion, Alexander Technique can be extremely useful in singing. It has helped me to become more aware of my body and the tensions in my body. I also now know how to undo those tensions and come a little closer to applying those methods when singing. In lessons and at home I found that when applying Alexander Technique my voice seem to have become more ‘settled’ in my body and appears to be sounded in a richer and fuller tone.
When singing I have a tendency of raising and tensing my jaw, especially when reaching for higher or more powerful notes. I believe that Alexander Technique has improved this and loosened the tightness in my jaw. Applying Alexander Technique in this instance allows me to achieve a more resonant sound and more space for air and therefore improved breath control. In the repertoire for this performance I’ve chosen to exclusively do original material. As this is a Work Based Learning Masters I realised that applying Alexander Technique when singing my own songs, would benefit me the most in my development.
To summarise, this module has really helped me to explore and discover a way of singing that I feel most comfortable with. Alexander Technique was brand new to me before including lessons for this module, and I found that by applying an open mind and striving to learn and develop, not only as a singer or musician, but as an artist – Alexander Technique can be one of the most beneficial things you can do to improve musical expression and overall well-being. My greatest discovery through this journey has been that it is all already within me. My health, my strength, my confidence, talent, passion and drive is all something I could only learn from myself – the difference is that Alexander Technique, Jane Gregory and vocal teacher Sara Raybould, helped me to understand it and encouraged me to believe it.