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.

Train this seldom-discussed body part for amazing breath control

BreatheToday we’re going to get pretty technical in our discussion of breath control. Odds are you’ve never heard it discussed from this angle, so let’s get into it.

First, a couple of questions.What controls your breathing? That is, how fast or slowly you can realease air? When you hold your breath, how do you do it? What do you use to stop the air flow? Chances are it’s not what you think.

Try this with me now: With your mouth open I want you to take a deep breath, hold it for about 3 seconds, then release it. …………
Did you do it? Ok. Now, the question again…how did you do that? How did you stop the air flow for those 3 seconds? Without fail, almost everybody responds to this little experiment with answers like “I held my stomach”. Or, if they’re a little more experienced they’ll say something about “squeezing the diaphragm”. Actually it’s neither.
The answer may surprise you, but the way you did it had nothing to do with either of those.You stopped the flow of air by pressing your vocal cords together so tightly that no air could come through. Yes, it’s the vocal cords that regulate the flow of air!

Now, be sure you understand what I’m saying here. You don’t breathe with your vocal cords, but they do regulate the flow of air through your trachia. When you cough, sneeze, hold your breath while you’re drinking a glass of water or anything along those lines, it’s your vocal cords that are coming into play.

Since we know that now, it becomes a pretty smart assumtion that vocal cords play a major role for the singer in improving breath control. In partiular, we are referring here to what we call “cord closure”.

When we sing, speak or make any kind of audible sound, our vocal cords come together and adduct, or “vibrate”. How good that connection is when they’re against each other has a lot to do with how efficiently they are using the air we send up when we’re singing.

Here’s an example: Let’s go back a few years when everybody had manual, roll-up windows in their cars. You’re driving down the highway. The windows are up. It’s raining outside. But you hear wind coming into the car from somwhere. You know the window is up because no rain is coming in, right?

You still hear wind coming in though, so you grab the handle and pull up on it to tighten the connection between the window and the frame. Suddenly the wind stops. Obviously, the window was up far enough to make a “decent” seal. It was enough to keep the rain out, but not enough to keep wind from escaping into the vehicle.

A very similar thing is happening when we sing. In most cases; particularly if you’ve never had lessons or done any excersises to develop them; your vocal cords are like the window. You have cord closure, but the seal is weak.

So what happens is much of the air you’re sending up is “going out the window”, so to speak. It’s escaping and not being used to make the note. The consequence, of course, is that you need and use more air to accomplish the task at hand.

Properly trained vocal cords have a tighter, stronger connection when they’re closed for singing. The result is that much of the air you send up to sing is actually used to make the note. Very little escapes unused.

As a result you need a lot less to do the same thing. So if you need less, you use less…which means you have more to spare and can sing longer without running out.

So, am I saying that better cord closure is the single, be-all solution to better breath control? No. Not cord closure alone. Better cord closure is just one of many elements that, when you take vocal lessons, begin to work together like a symphony to give you better breath control, more power with less work, and increased range without yelling. “Cord closure exercises” are just one of many beneficial vocal training tools a professional vocal coach uses to to get you there. I’ll teach you more about proper breathing and show you a great chord closure exercise in my free 5 day vocal training course. Get it free when you join my mailing list below.

 

 

Here I Am To Worship by Darlene Zschech

I’m not sure many people in the Black church have heard this entire song because we tend to do only the chorus when it shows up in our churches. It’s one of the standards in the CCM community though, and for good reason. Take a few minutes to enjoy this one as you think about His love for you.

2 simple tips to instantly improve your breath control

Deep breathFinding yourself running out of breath more and more when you sing? Do you get the feeling you’re gasping for air?

In a nutshell, insufficient breath control comes from bad technique. When you take vocal lessons your vocal technique improves , so you’ll usually see an improvement in your breath control. But often you can make some very simple changes and see an improvement almost right away.

 

1. Stop Holding Your Breath!

Very recently, with two separate students, we were working on a song in our voice lesson after having warmed up and gone through our normal vocal exercise routine. Both of them were really having trouble just finishing simple phrases without becoming winded and out of breath. These are phrases they were singing in a very comfortable area of their range.
I had them sing the phrases a few times, checking for all of the proper positioning and vocal techniques I had taught them. They were doing everything by the numbers, so I began to look deeper. Then it hit me. ” Do you realize that you’re holding your breath after you finish phrases?

“I’m what? Holding my breath when?!”

” When you finish a phrase,” I explained, “you hold your breath right up until the very slpit second you need to start the next phrase. Then you take this really quick gasp of air. That’s why you’re always winded. You’re not breathing!”

In both cases my students were completely unaware that they were doing this. Chances are you may be doing it too. It’s very common. Here’s what I told my students to do.

“You need to take full advantage of spaces between your lyrical phrases where you have an opportunity to breathe. As soon as you finish the last word of your phrase, start drawing in a very controlled, natural breath for the next phrase. This way you’re not starting lines already out of breath.”

“Try that line again, this time use that full space between the first line and the second line. Take a nice deep breath just like we’ve learned. Allowing your stomach to inflate, not raising your chest or shoulders. Let the diaphragm work. Go ahead.”

“OMG, that’s such a difference!”, was the answer I got from both of them after they tried it.

So now you try. Remember, in the average song you’ll have at least a second or two between one phrase and the next. Use that space to inhale for the next phrase. But don’t HEAVE! Proper breathing is done with a relaxed abdomen that rises as you breathe in and gradually falls as you exhale.

2. Breathe Where It Makes Sense!

Once you’ve made that adjustment, start looking closer at your lyrics and where you’re choosing to breathe. Often singers are simply choosing awkward places in the lyrics to try to take a breath.

Frequently you see singers taking quick intakes of air between words in the middle of sentences. These are not only awkward places to breathe, but you have almost no time to do so. So again, you’re gasping for a quick breath instead of a nice, relaxed inhale. If you pay attention to the natural flow of the lyrics, the most natural places to take a breath will start to become obvious. They will be the spaces you hear between one phrase and the next.

I hope you enjoyed this little tip! There’s so much more to learn about how to use your voice properly though. You can start with my free 5 day vocal training course. Get it when you join my mailing list below.

 

See you soon,

Ron Cross