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Singing to the Back Row

This weeks question comes from Eli, who is wondering about the concept of “singing to the balcony” and how that might affect a singer’s posture. Naturally, I have some thoughts on that. Read on to see what they are.

Your Question

Chris, In your teaching about singing posture, you teach that the back of the neck should feel longer while the front of the neck should feel shorter. Lately I’ve read and have watched operatic tenors who do the opposite. Italian tenors, in particular, seem to raise the front of their necks (chins) upward, particularly when singing high notes. I heard some other operatic singers say to always sing to the second balcony which would mean raising the chin upward. What’s your opinion of their thoughts? Thank you very much.

My Answer

Thanks so much for your thoughtful question, Eli. Here are my thoughts:

Operatic singers can afford to be a bit stiffer than pop or Broadway singers. But, even so, lifting the head for higher notes and lowering it for lower notes doesn’t offer any physiological benefit. In fact, in my studies, it interferes. But more to the point, here is what I teach. And in considering my answer please remember that my background includes extensive classical experience in many languages as well as in oratorio and opera. Carole and I have traveled the world as I taught and sang. Admittedly, however, I do live more in the contemporary world these days. So…

  1. The “Long back of neck and shorter front of neck” is intended to prevent the Goose-necking that so many singers do. They stick the chin out (forward) and up—inhibiting air flow and a free larynx. By eliminating this dangerous position it opens the doors to complete freedom. When the head is balanced back over the shoulders it can ultimately be rotated up, down, left or right still with complete “freedom.”
  2. Tying a fixed posture to a certain range is limiting.
  3. The best opera singers I know can sing the same note looking at the sky or the floor and still get the job done.
  4. “Sing to the 2nd balcony” is the same concept as “sing to the guy in the last row.” That’s fine as long as you don’t push, unnaturally, or skip connecting with row 1 and all the way back. The idea is to get singers to think out beyond themselves, which I get, but the fact is we need to connect to every person from row 1 to 99. Every row needs to feel we are looking at and singing to them. And to that end, I include performance coaching as integral to any complete voice training.

There is a lot of information out there about how to sing. Sometimes it conflicts, and then sometimes it seems to conflict, but actually doesn’t. This is a case of the latter where on the surface, “Singing to the Back Row” seems to be addressing Posture, but is really a performance issue. If any of you get some confusing information on your journey to become a better singer, I’d be glad to clear it up for you. Just ask!

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  1. I want a better voice to the point of going pro at end point.you seem to know what you are doing after viewing your sight compared to others of similar or higher caliber.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Aaron. Our goal at Vocal Coach is to prepare and educate the singer. We don’t promise a career or guarantee you can sing the highest note in the world. We do, however, give you a way to learn the foundations and build the skills and habits that will allow you to be your best. The Vocal Coach Singer package, for instance, will absolutely give you the principles and exercises to experience, then own solid vocal skills. After getting as much as you can from the CD’s or mp3’s you can schedule one-on-one Online sessions to get personal input and feedback from an experienced teacher/coach.

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    Thanks again. We look forward to helping you be your absolute best.

    For Vocal Coach,
    Chris Beatty

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