Phil Stutz’s Life Force Triangle: The Tools for Vocalists

How I apply "the Tools" of Phil Stutz's for creating & enhancing "the Life Force Triangle" for vocalists.

A holistic approach to singing

Many students of mine know that I often like to look at singing in a holistic way. Having experienced the limitations of my own vocal teachers, however knowledgeable they might have been, I have learned in time, that looking at the physical side of singing by itself is useless, when other factors are left behind.

I am referring here to the fact that singing is not only a physical thing. "Old school teachers", like I have had in Italy, the USA and the Netherlands, had their focus on telling you what your body should do and not do.
The problem, I find, lies herein, that the body (and the voice, for that matter) is merely a vehicle that transfers our emotions, our energy. It is indeed literally, our instrument. But we need a driver to transport the emotion of this vehiccle so that the vehicle can bring this to our audience.

But how to do that, when you are told weekly to "Just":

  • "release your jaw"
  • "raise your soft palate"
  • "lower your larynx"
  • "raise your cheeks"
  • "tighten your diaphragm"
  • "place the sound in your sinuses"


Why do teachers focus only on the instrument and say that our instrument is lacking? This would be very strange when the instrument would be the piano. A singer needs to know how to use his instrument and to know why it is not working the way he wants to. It is true, most of the physical singing processes, like breathing, and pitching, are part of the autonomous nervous system. That means, when the body is healthy, most of these processes are working automatically. But: ceteris paribus. assuming that all other factors are the same.

And there lies the problem: they never are.
Because the body itself might be the instrument, but there are two elements in singing, that can prevent our instrument from working. They are our feelings and our state of mind.

An example

Let me explain myself. Take breathing, for example. Breathing by itself is an integral part of our autonomous nervous system and an automatic process. We don't have to think about it. But when we feel anxious, stressed, or insecure, and we think that we might fail, we tend to gasp for air and then, our instrument is not working as it could.

All vocal students struggle with this physical process, and others, including myself, years ago. I felt like a panting deer, but my teachers kept telling me to not gasp for breath. "Breathe from the diaphragm!" they shouted. I was doing it wrong, I kept breathing nervously, even more so when I was told, endlessly, that I was doing it incorrectly. I had to try again and again. And again. It was very frustrating.
The problem didn't lie in my physical instrument, though. It might have been my posture, because many teachers fail to tell their pupils that breathing in cannot happen with the pelvis tilted the wrong way, but that is another story. My vocal chords were there, and so were my lungs. Nor was the root of the problem that I did not understand how to use it, although the pelvic tilt, I found out on my own, long after I graduated.

So, what was the real problem?

My obstructive feelings, my stress, my haste, my greed to succeed, my expectations, my litiming thoughts and obstructive physical habits, that were created by them, all stopped me from letting my body breathe like it is made for: by itself. At the moment itself, but also in the vast period of time that we call our life, I had grown habits based on my feelings and beliefs. My other two important elements were lacking: I simply didn't have enough emotional and mental power. My teachers did not (want to?) go into that arena, unfortunately, to address this.

So in my opinion, not only the physical aspect of singing is important, but the emotions and thoughts, too.
So in short, we can divide our singing into three elements:

  • our physique (our body, voice, instrument)
  • our emotions (feelings of incertaincy or grief)
  • our mental state (thoughts and beliefs and what we know)

So I had to find out and go through this mostly by myself. It became clearer to me when I grew older and when teaching others. I now can help them better because I focus on all three elements with them.

Phil Stutz: his Tools and Life Force Triangle

Then lately I stumbled into a documentary about a psychiatrist, that struck a chord with me: Phil Stutz. Stutz thought that the power of our well-being consisted of three things. His so-called Life Force Triangle is a holistic framework that addresses the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of our being. It proposes that optimal health and well-being, can be achieved when these three components are in harmony.

For vocalists, I have actually been using the same framework for years! Here are a few examples:

  1. Physical Health: Singing requires a lot of physical effort, and it is essential for vocalists to maintain good physical health. Stutz's Life Force Triangle emphasizes the importance of physical well-being as a foundation for overall health. It suggests that vocalists pay attention to their posture, diet, exercise, and sleep patterns to maintain optimal physical health. I would also say that a singer must know his body and vocal anatomy well, because knowledge about the body as an instrument is still an integral part of vocal technique, in my eyes.
  2. Emotional Health: Singing is an emotional experience, and the singer wants to tap into the ability to express emotions through song. Stutz's Life Force Triangle suggests that vocalists work on developing emotional intelligence and learn to regulate their emotions effectively. This can help them connect with their music and deliver more authentic and powerful performances, but also, when the singer is relaxed and dares to be expressive, breathing and pitching become unobstructive elements of the nervous system, and all other things mentioned in the list above, happen almost automatically. Work on your emotional health by interacting with others.
  3. Mental Health: Singing requires a lot of mental focus and concentration. Stutz's Life Force Triangle emphasizes the importance of mental well-being and suggests that vocalists work on developing mindfulness and other techniques to enhance their mental clarity and focus. This can help them stay focused during performances and deliver more consistent and confident performances. Work on the relationship with yourself by writing or singing, and get to know yourself.

Overall, this framework can help vocalists approach their craft in a more holistic and integrated way. By paying attention to their physical, emotional, and mental health, they can improve their singing ability and deliver more powerful and authentic performances.

These are just some of the many theories I use in my own vocal method, which you can learn in my online vocal courses on Master the Art of Singing. Courses are to be launched this summer.

Watch Stutz on Netflix. You can watch the trailer here: