The physicality of singing

Funny school choir singingI had my first singing gig with my choir on Wednesday evening. We sang a Finnish tango named Satumaa, a jazzy version of Jingle Bells and Gloria Dei.

Based on the feedback our choir leader got from her colleagues we were pretty good – mostly thanks to her thorough singing instruction!


I’ve been singing for 4 months now. What surprised me the most about my new hobby is the fact how physical singing is as an activity. That salsa dancing is physical goes without saying, but who’d have thought that singing is utterly physical too?

A sizable portion of our weekly choir singing lessons is spent first warming up our bodies – especially the upper body and then doing various vocal warm-ups before we actually start singing. That usually lasts at least 30 minutes. I spend much of our lesson thinking about how to breathe from the low belly, not just chest and I need to constantly remind myself to keep my jaw relaxed.

As an untrained singer I used to think singing mostly involves using your lungs to push air out thorough your throat and vocal cords and then out of your mouth and that’s that.

But now I’ve learned that to be able to produce rich and vibrant singing voice the voice has to reverberate in several bony cavities of the skull – not just the mouth. And I’ve also learned that it’s a good idea to maintain a slightly amused expression of a bored society lady on your face.

If you’re ever wondered about the pronounced facial expressions on some singer’s face, it’s probably because she’s trying to direct her voice to their nasal cavity –  or something.  I’ve already started to resemble an opera singer in my gesturing. 🙂

The fact that we always sing on our feet or walk around the class during singing stresses the physicality of singing too. When I practice singing on my own I always stand up, because it’s easy for my upper body to collapse if I sit down. And collapsed posture is no good for singing!

I’ve noticed a clear improvement in my singing voice during the fall. I’ve lots of room for improvement though – I was mortified over a week ago when I was heartily singing a hymn in a funeral and I strayed into a wrong note. Gah!


I’ve been really happy with both hobbies I started in September, salsa and singing in a choir. When I thought about what makes them such felicitous choices I came to the conclusion that it’s because they are a perfect antidote to my life that tends to be too abstract and cerebral.

Singing and salsa dancing are good for me because they force me to stay in the present instead of living in my head all the time.

If you liked my post you might also be interested in a post that touts the wonders of salsa dancing. Click here to read it.