Updated: Nov 21, 2019
We all love massages. But is it just a nice thing you do as a treat for yourself, or can it be a real part of caring for your instrument? After years of working with singers I'm convinced that it can be the latter.
Perhaps you're working hard with your vocal coach to change habits and you just feel stuck. Of course there is the mental work to do, but it's worth considering that you may be fighting habitual muscular tension and you could use some help changing that. Massage can assist you in leveling up your singing when you feel like you just can't quite make the changes you are aiming for.
Ideally you are able to find a massage therapist proficient in jaw work for full benefit. Even without that component there is a lot a massage therapist can do to help you sing your best!
Abdominal Massage - Powerful singing starts with good breathing. For full belly breaths your core needs to be soft. I don't use soft to indicate lack of strength, but rather the ability to relax the abdominal wall so it can fully expand. Abdominal massage can help tremendously to relieve held tension.
Chest massage - Tension in your pectorals can contribute to rounded shoulders, pin down your front neck muscles and consequently restrict movement of your larynx. Improving your posture will help you get those full, supportive breaths. A note here - if your upper back/shoulders bother you regularly, you NEED chest opening work. Our upper backs can essentially become the "sore loser" in the battle for balance against the chest.
Neck massage - The front of the neck is where your voice box lives. Requesting focus from your therapist on anterior neck work can bring more ease of movement, making it easier to get to those hard to reach places in your range.
Jaw massage - Your mouth is your resonating chamber. The more open it is, the fuller your sound can be. Most massage therapists are comfortable doing face and scalp work so don't skip asking for this! Gloved intraoral (inside the mouth) work and facial massage can effectively open up this chamber by releasing the many muscles of the face and tongue from different angles. Given the delicate nature of the face, intraoral massage should only be done by someone familiar with the location of neurovascular bundles and lymph nodes as well as the muscles of the face.
Scalp massage - The largest muscle affecting your jaw movement, temporalis, lives just above your ears and is about the size of your palm. Getting release in this muscle is key for making sure you jaw moves freely.
Full Body massage - While focused attention on the parts of the body directly involved in sound production is very useful, it's important to note that addressing the body as a whole has great benefit. Perhaps you've had moments where you wanted to fully drop into the moment of vocal expression but that nagging pain in your back or tight legs made it challenging to do so. Fully body massages are tremendously helpful for our emotional states, and can make you feel put back together and ready to preform with a sense of ease in your body.
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