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.
The first thing a singer should be aware of before the phonation process is having an open and relaxed throat. Often times on Sunday mornings we forget about that small things that come together to create the big picture. Having an open throat while you sing feels strange at first and will become natural after much practice. The open throat feel is the same feeling you feel when you yawn. The goal is to have that feeling every time you sing. As church singers we often tense up in the throat area when it comes time to sing. But it is important to remember that the inhalation stage sets you up for the phonation stage. So when you inhale you need to inhale with an open throat, your throat is open when it time for phonation. Once again this process will become easier with practice.
During phonation (singing) the diaphragm and the air you release are the controllers of the voice. Many singers use the throat to control the voice but the throat should remain open and relaxed during singing. The tension that we often place on our voice is the cause of sore throat and hoarseness. There was one interesting thing that stuck with me during my time in college. My voice instructor would always tell me if you are singing properly you should be able to still sing when you are hoarse. If you can train your body and mind to always have an open throat and allow the air and diaphragm to control the voice, then you will find singing a lot easier to do.
The Resting Period is much like suspension, in that you need to be thinking about what is coming next and preparing yourself to repeat the same process. So we’re speaking then, of that brief time between the last thing you sang and the line that’s coming up next. All of these stages will take time to get used to. But I promise you this one thing, when it finally clicked in my head singing for me became easy. If you practice the process every time you sing it will begin to become natural.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this 3 part series on the fine art of proper breathing
. There will be video blogs coming soon to give you a physical example of how the process looks. Don’t forget to post your comments questions for me.
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.