The vocal tract — the lips of the glottis to the lips of the mouth — is some pretty important real estate. Over the course of a career, a voice professional might spend enough on its care and maintenance to purchase some more tangible real estate, say, a very large house… in Hawaii… on the beach. You can make that necessary investment in your vocal health, many do, and still wind up neglecting a constituency that conditions the function of the whole, namely, the way the head that houses the vocal tract rests on its fulcrum atop the spine, on the atlanto-occipital joint. It can have a profound effect on your singing or speaking voice. How? The atlanto-occipital joint sits higher than you might imagine. It sits just above and behind the oropharynx, that area of your throat — visible from the front of the mouth — where the throat begins its plunge toward the laryngopharynx beneath, and still deeper, the larynx itself where the vocal folds reside. The oropharynx is largely responsible for the formation and purity of your vowels, for the harmony of the vibrator — your vocal folds — with its primary resonator, the throat itself. The oropharynx is, according to the great master of singing, Manuel Garcia, the true mouth of the singer. A slight imbalance of the head upon the atlanto-occiptal joint — the head’s being pulled back and down for instance — can profoundly affect the shape of your oropharynx and adversely impact your sound, make your otherwise fine voice sound narrow, pinched, and resonanceless.
Just as your teacher of singing is a connoisseur of sound, your teacher of the Alexander Technique is a connoisseur — an intuitive knower — of the state of your head-neck-back relationship, of your primary control, and the resultant motility of your atlanto-occiptal joint. Your teacher of the Alexander technique suggests with his hands, certain shapes, relationships, and co-ordinations that your voice teacher inculcates with her salient words, scales, and musical devices. A teacher of singing working with a teacher of the Alexander Technique, together or separately, is the ultimate synergy that the voice professional — singer, actor, teacher, or businessperson — can enjoy. You’re going to want both on your team. Image: Sebastian Kavlitzki
Thanks for this Alan. Many people don’t realize that the Alexander Technique was developed for one reason only: A guy, a speaker, kept losing his voice, and he wanted to keep on gigging.
Thanks, Mark. Don’t we all, want that. Just to keep on gigging.
Like you, I teach both the AT and singing and see an intimate relationship between the two. It seems to me that, when either of these skills are taught well, they lead to much the same place.
Ron Murdock, the Canadian singing and Alexander Technique teacher (now in Holland) told me many years ago that when he was having lessons with the great singing teacher Frederick Husler, long before he studied the Alexander Technique, he had a very similar sensation of lengthening in his back that he was not to feel again until he started Alexander lessons.