Audition season have you tied in knots? Ann Rodiger, Master Alexander Technique Teacher and Director of the Balance Arts Center, shares her tips for performing optimally in the audition room.
Ann has been teaching the Alexander Technique and movement for over 30 years in academic and private settings. If you'd like to work with Ann, she teaches regularly in New York and in Berlin, and she is offering a 10% discount for your first lesson or workshop. Mention this article when you request the discount.
Auditions, rehearsals, and even lessons can be a time of heightened experience and awareness. There are ways to work with the stress and anxiety of those moments that will help you perform optimally.
Following are five tips will help you stay focused and present during these moments so you have access to your best vocal technique and your intentions for communication are realized. They will help you as you prepare for your audition and during the times you are in front of an audience.
The tips are based on the concepts of the Alexander Technique. The Alexander Technique helps you become awareness of what you are doing mentally and physically and gives you ideas and experiences of how to cultivate your best posture, balance and breathing. Remember, the Alexander Technique is about finding the optimal tone and direction for your body, not releasing or collapsing into a puddle.
Tip #1. Singing is a Whole Body Activity
Your whole body supports your singing so make sure you consider your entire being as you prepare and perform. It is easy to become so focused on one part that the whole is forgotten. The goal is to be free and fluid with your entire body so the air and sound flow through your three-dimensional body and are not blocked at any point.
To find your whole body, sense the ground and your own body weight through the bottom of your feet (let your feet spread out on the floor – no gripping of the toes of arches of the feet) into the ground. Notice that you can then sense an easy upward motion coming up from the ground through your entire body and out the top of your head. This buoyancy comes from keeping all of your joints free and easy – from your ankles to the top of your spine (keeping all of the natural curves in your spine so your neck isn’t over straightened). Allow this movement to happen by letting your body balance easily rather that “fixing” or “reaching” for a position or direction.
Tip #2. Keep your Head - Neck - Tongue – Jaw Free
Now that you have your whole body in mind and in your awareness, let your head, neck, tongue, and jaw soften and release. This does not mean to go limp, be passive or let your jaw sag (thus pulling your whole system down).
Instead, keep gently lengthening through your easy neck behind your tongue and jaw out through the top your head (no reaching or pulling on your neck) while your head balances on the top of your spine. As you do this you will notice that it helps you find the sense of your whole body rebounding from the ground and lengthening as mentioned in Tip #1. Let your tongue be easy and wide, and your jaw move on your skull from the joint (back by your ears) so it doesn’t disturb the balance of your head on your spine..
Through developing an awareness and conscious perception of the head- neck tongue and jaw independently you will be more aware of the whole. And you will have a better ability to articulate your vowels and consonants.
Thinking of these directions every time you inhale will help you find your best balance and state of readiness for each phrase. They will help you get back on track for the next phrase if you notice that something is not the way you want it to be while you are singing.
Tip #3. Use Your Breath Well - Sing on Your Air
Use you breath to calm your body and your mind. This is especially useful while you are in a waiting or green room. This will help you stay with yourself in the midst of a potentially active and tense situation.
Stay long and exhale more air more than you might do normally (out toward the top of your head) and then let your air spring in above your tongue and into your entire body. Sense the movement of your inhale all the way down to the soles of your feet while you keep your tongue easy.
The inhale will help you define your length, width, and depth and lead you to your best support. Let the air come in above your tongue and travel all the way down to your sit bones and then into your feet, lengthening your body in two directions at once.
Start each phrase by catching the initial movement of your air as it turns around to an exhale and singing on that air. Make sure not to blow the air or push it up through your body by squeezing your ribs.
Tip #4. Use Your Eyes Easily
The head leads the body and the eyes often lead the head. Allow yourself to see a specific object and see peripherally as well. Staying easy in the eyes helps you maintain your best balance (keeps you from pulling forward off your legs and even subtly leaning on the audience). It also helps you to present yourself in a confident and assured manner.
Remember that peripheral vision is up and down as well as side to side.
Leaving your eyes easy will help you to stay in your back and find your support, again because it helps you to not lean forward.
Tip #5. Pay Attention – Stay Conscious
Stay tuned in while you are singing. It is important to “sing” and communicate what you wish to communicate and still stay conscious (no checking out on high notes). It can be a delicate balance between focusing on the technical things you know you need to attend to, being in character, and giving it your all.
Another way of saying this is to find a balance between the specific aspects of what you are doing and the more global overall full body awareness you need for singing. The dance between these two things is something every performer grapples with. Everyone needs to find their own balance.
The most important thing is not to “zone out” but to “zone in” and stay conscious. Find how/when you need to focus on what. This varies with each person. Sometimes “zoning in” feels like “zoning out” if you have been micromanaging your singing. In any case, stay conscious and notice what happens so you can direct yourself to your best singing.
Most of all it is important to enjoy your singing and let that show to whomever is listening.