Singing in Heels

About Dr. Reena Gupta

Dr. Reena Gupta is the Director of the Division of Voice and Laryngology at OHNI. Dr. Gupta has devoted her practice to the care of patients with voice problems. She is board certified in otolaryngology and laryngology and fellowship trained in laryngology, specializing in the care of the professional voice.

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Last night’s Dancing with the Stars featured a gorgeous and elegant Kelly Clarkson, whom we haven’t seen in some time. But it was certainly worth the wait. Singing “Mr. Know It All” from her new album Stronger, her vocals were a wonderful change from the Auto-Tuned, electronicized version of the human voice we’ve come to believe is singing. I can’t pretend I know all the tricks of production that can alter and improve even a live performance.

However, Kelly neither appeared to have used nor needed these tricks. Only a tinge of rasp touched her high notes, and perhaps even that was intentional. With phenomenal posture and breath support, tension-free singing in her neck, and a total lack of jaw tension, she easily glided through a vocally challenging piece. And made it look easy.

But what about that posture? I couldn’t help but notice her standing tall on 4 inch heels. And for that matter, so were her back-up singers. In a time where I see more young singers coming in with early burn-out injuries of their voices, I always cringe a little when I see things that I know risk damaging the voice. The posture you take when you sing is critical to your support and it’s something I tell my singer patients constantly. But does that mean the young female singer is banished to tennis shoes?

Not at all. There are ways to learn to engage your core and re-balance yourself, no matter how high the platform you stand upon. While the risk of damage is higher, when done correctly, you can minimize it tremendously. Kelly seemed to get this. Because she was in those shoes, she took out some of the performance antics that can result in injury. She kept cool and focused and drove her voice into her core. She occasionally touched that center to remind herself of the source of her sound and to focus her breath there. And the result sang for itself.

There are many vocal coaches who claim to teach breath support. I’ve met with dozens over my years here and have found more posing than posture work. It’s troubling because these same coaches charge their unsuspecting clientele more than $100 per lesson! However, there are a few who know what they’re talking about and when I put my singers in their hands, the vocal product speaks more than anything the coaches themselves can say.

For example, I’ve recently come across a technique called Pilates2Voice. This innovative approach supplements the lessons taught by a vocal coach. Actors and signers alike desperately try to book time with Dr. Asher, the technique’s founder, because of the phenomenal results. Vocal endurance, stamina, and projection all increase, as do range and power.

In the end, vocal strength is not easily taught. You must constantly re-learn and re-assess what you do. But with diligence and a good vocal team on your side, you can learn the tricks to a long career. And about those shoes?

If you perform in heels, practice in heels.

And have a skilled vocal team help you. All true vocal talent is backed up by vocal coaches, performance specialists like Dr. Asher, and a voice doctor. You deserve no less.

To learn more about Dr. Reena Gupta or vocal technique, visit:

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