The 4 Stages Of Breathing Explained, Pt. 2

Welcome back! In my last blog I gave you a detailed explaination of Inhalation and Suspension, the first 2 stages of proper breathing. Now I would like to break down the last two, Phonation and the Resting Period.

We discussed how important inhalation is to a singer. On the opposite hand we have exhalation, which is the usage of the air you inhaled. In normal breathing this process is called exhalation but in the singing world it should be referred to as Phonation. Phonation is simply the process by which the vocal folds vibrate and produce sound. To the average gospel singer we naturally have the gift to sing so we really do not focus on what is actually going on in our body when we sing. I believe that it is important for a singer to know how the body affects the sound we produce.
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Why you get dizzy when you sing and how to fix it

Today’s blog is a video where I discuss dizziness while singing. It’s very common among gospel singers. I’ll explain what causes this and give you a vocal exercise to help stop it. Enjoy!
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The 4 Stages Of Proper Breathing Explained

In my previous blog I started talking about the breathing process that a singer should go through. In that article I mentioned that there are four stages of proper breathing: Inhalation, Suspension, Phonation(exhalation) and the resting period. I thought it would be helpful to go into more detail about each one. Today I’ll cover the first two, Inhalation and Suspension.

First let’s talk about Inhalation.
During the inhalation stage of breathing it is critical for the singer to have a relaxed body so that the air can fill in where necessary. Referring back to a balloon analogy I used in the first blog , when air is blown into it the balloon expands all the way around. When inhaling air, as a singer the mid section of your body should expand just as that balloon does, freely allowing the air to fill the lungs from bottom to top. The average singer is prone to taking a shallow inhalation right before they sing. But I cannot tell you how imperative that intentional deep breath is every time you open your mouth to sing. The body should be erect in a natural stance. The shoulders are not in any way involved in the inhalation process. The only movement there should be is in the mid section of the body, from the air filling in.
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The fine art of proper breathing

Breathing is something we all do naturally. But in the singing world- more precisely the classical singing world- there is an art/technique to breathing. Singing gospel most of my life I was stuck in my ways as far as singing was concerned. I lost my voice often and I always felt like I was screaming to get certain notes out. It was not until I began studying classical music that I began to understand the technique.

The way you breathe not only produces the sound but it also controls the quality of the sound and the volume. Have you ever heard a singer and you could hardly hear what they were singing? Or maybe a singer who always sounds like they are afraid when they sing. There are even singers who do not fully understand how to preserve the air that they take in while singing. Breath control is a great way to assist the average singer with such issues.

The average singer is drawn to just taking air in right before they sing their first word. But I want you to think about not just taking air in, but letting the air fill up from the bottom to the top. This process involves the entire body and takes some extra thinking. As the air fills the lungs the stomach section and the back section should expand. During this time the singer should be thinking about what has to be sung and how it should be sang.Once the singer knows what is about to happen then the actual singing begins.

In normal everyday breathing there are three stages: inhalation, exhalation and a resting period. In singing there should be four stages: inhalation, suspension, exhalation and a resting period. It is vitally important that a singer consciously do these four stages until it is natural. The exhalation or phonation stage is typically the stage where most singers lose control of their breath. Phonation involves several areas of the mid section the abdominal, internal intercostal and the lower pelvic muscles. These muscles control the amount of air that is released while singing. They also support the sound and tone quality of the notes.

The entire process can be a lot to think about while one is trying to remember the words to a song or fight through nerves. But if you want your singing to improve and become much easier, it’s definitely worth the effort. Try thinking about breathing in a different way when it is time to sing. Practice letting the air fill from the bottom of your lungs to the top, then stop and think about what all you want to sing with that breath. Imagine you have a full balloon and you squeeze the top so the air will seep out. That balloon is your lungs. Once they are filled you want to strategically release the air, rather than just pushing or blowing as hard as you can.

We’ll be talking more about breathing in future blogs.

Shena Crane,

The Music Ministry Coach.com

Shena Crane is a Classically trained professional vocal coach. She graduated from University Of Texas At Arlington. Shena holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education as well as an Associates Degree in Music/Performance.

9 ways we can help improve your church’s music ministry

9If you grew up in the church working in music ministry, you know that we pretty-much learned everything by trial and error. Some people were in fact blessed to have a mentor to sit under to learn their craft, but that’s the exception, not the norm. I learned how to teach vocal harmony and direct the choir on my own. God gave me the gift of a good pair of ears and a natural ability to teach, but I had to learn my craft by getting in front of the choir and making mistakes. Then, sometimes, getting in front of the church and making mistakes. So my main mission and reason for starting The Music Ministry Coach.com is to provide professional-level training products and services to the music ministry that have traditionally not been available before. Here then, are 9 ways (some of them free) my company can help train, enhance and improve your church’s music ministry.
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Ease tension and improve vocal tone with one simple adjustment.

In Everyday UseMost people don’t realize it, but the vowels in the words we sing play an absolutely critical role in just about everything we feel and hear from our singing voices. How easy or difficult a particular word is to sing has everything to do with the vowel in that word and how it’s being pronounced by the singer.

Not only is strain and tension affected by vowels and the way they’re pronounced, but the actual tonal quality is affected as well. If pronounced incorrectly, certain vowels can cause your tone to take on a harsh quality that is a lot less melodic, lacking warmth and richness. Vocal coaches generally place vowels into two categories. We refer to those categories a couple of different ways. The first two should sound familiar to you from school:

1. Long vowels
2. Short vowels.

We refer to them more commonly in vocal training sessions as:

1. Wide vowels
2. Narrow vowels.

Most of us, especially in Gospel, have a tendency to pronounce almost all vowels-even narrow ones- in a very wide position. The position worsens as we sing higher and higher notes.
Pretty soon even narrow vowels like the “O” in God become something closer to “GAD” when sung on a high note.

Vowels like the “A” in Grace, Faith and Wait are all examples of a wide vowel. The vowel “E” is another example of a “Wide” or “Long” vowel. E is the hardest vowel to sing because of all the tension it causes in words like “me”.

This tension comes from the wide position of our mouth when we sing words like these that contain wide vowels. We often refer to them as “smiley” vowels for this reason.

To alleviate some of this strain and tension I teach students a simple technique called “narrowing” or “shortening” the vowel.
Here’s an example:

If we were singing Hezikiah’s song “Grateful”, at the vamp where the song gets really high and you have to keep singing that long, wide “A” in the word grateful, we would just “shorten” that vowel by pronouncing it differently.

So instead of a pronunciation that sounds more like this:

“Graayt-ful”

We shorten that long “A” by pronouncing it like a short “e”, so we end up with a pronunciation that sounds more like this:

“Greytful”.

That looks weird, I know. And your first thought is that it would sound weird too. But to the audience it sounds pretty-much like the first pronunciation.

Doing this however, does a couple of very cool things. First, it takes a great deal of tension off your vocal cords. A wide mouth causes the larynx to raise, which causes a great deal of strain and tension.
Shortening the vowel puts your mouth in a much more oval, narrow position so you larynx drops and you feel less tension and strain.
You also use less air because there is a smaller space for you to push it through.

But here’s the really cool thing. Shortening or narrowing these wide vowels has a dramatic affect on the tonal quality of the singer. It’s especially dramatic in choirs and other large groups, but it works the same way for everyone.

Singing with narrow vowels takes all the edgy, harshness from your vocal tone and replaces it with a warm, rich tone. Almost instantly!

Here’s a really neat way to try this easily. Put on a cd of a song you like that requires you to go pretty high. One where you find yourself straining a lot; screaming for the note.

Then sing that part with your hands pressed against your cheeks until your lips kinda pucker a little. You’ll sound funny and look even funnier (lol) but it’s a cool way to find the narrow pronunciation of a vowel quickly. It also helps you feel what it’s like to sing higher notes without all the tension or screaming. Chances are, if you do this correctly and keep your stomach relaxed, you’ll feel a pretty dramatic difference in those high notes.

So give it a try! To learn more about narrow vowels and get a “low larynx exercise you can do every day, sign up for my free 5 day vocal training course. Details at the bottom of the blog. Don’t forget to come to the Facebook page and tell me about it.

Want to learn even more vocal techniques free of charge? Sign up for my mailing list below and I’ll give you a 5 day video vocal training course. Just my way of saying thanks for reading and subscribing. See you in the course!