Improving Breath Support in Singing.
Part 1: Demystifying Diaphragmatic Breathing
Have you ever been advised to “sing from your diaphragm” and felt lost? Does the idea of mastering this technique seem like an elusive goal? Take a moment to ask yourself, can you feel your diaphragm?
Unpacking the Diaphragmatic Myth
In this segment, we’re going to dissect this seemingly complex notion and guide you towards achieving better breath support in your songs. We’ll also explore methods to release your breath effectively and enhance your singing for pop and musical theatre genres.
The Flexibility of Breath: Tailoring to Your Style
Let’s establish a crucial fact right away: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to breathing for all music styles. We’re about to delve into various breathing options for singing, catering to the volume and voice quality you aim to achieve. Have you ever questioned why your favorite singer emphasizes upper breathing for high notes, while you were advised to focus on breathing “into your back”?
Understanding the Breath Mechanism
To lay the foundation, we need to grasp the mechanics of breathing, both for everyday life and singing. Even if you have a basic understanding of breathing, you’ll find this exploration intriguing. The speaker shares personal challenges faced while learning to breathe for singing, shedding light on the process.
The Diaphragm: A Central Player
Our primary breathing muscle is the diaphragm, a muscular sheet separating the chest cavity from the abdomen. It’s important to note that while the diaphragm is frequently discussed, you can’t consciously contract it like you would your abs or biceps.
Balancing Act: True Vocal Folds and Muscles
Breath control involves managing the air flow and pressure based on the quality of your true vocal folds. Additionally, it encompasses the activation of internal intercostal muscles (those between the ribs) and the abdominal muscles (commonly known as the “six-pack”) dictating the speed of exhalation.
Visualizing the Breath Process
To illustrate, think of your lungs as sponges and imagine your hands as the intercostal muscles. As you inhale, the muscles relax, allowing the sponge (your lungs) to fill with air. When contracting, the sponge expels the air due to the pressure exerted by the intercostal and abdominal muscles.
Decoding “Breathe Into Your Tummy”
The instruction to “breathe into your tummy” or “breathe low” is often given to create space for internal organs. This movement is a result of the diaphragm descending, pushing abdominal contents outward. However, it’s crucial to understand that this motion doesn’t signify you’re breathing into your stomach; rather, you’re initiating a low breath, filling your lungs from the bottom up.
Overcoming Common Misconceptions
Some individuals might find their stomachs moving inward instead of outward during inhalation. This could be attributed to factors like dance training or cultural influences on posture. Regardless, practicing lower lung breathing offers benefits beyond singing, including stress relief and improved lung health.
Tidal Breathing: A Natural State
In everyday speech, we only tap into a fraction of our lung capacity, a state known as tidal breathing. If you find your stomach moving inwards, causing your chest to rise, it’s not necessarily a negative sign. This natural breath pattern warrants further discussion.
Part 2: Practical Exercises for Enhancing Your Breathing
It’s time to put our newfound knowledge into action. I’ll be sharing practical exercises to help you strengthen your breathing techniques, whether you’re a classical singer or belting out pop anthems.
Exercise 1: Diaphragmatic Breathing Mastery
Master the art of diaphragmatic breathing, a fundamental technique for various singing styles. We’ll walk through step-by-step exercises to help you achieve this crucial skill.
Exercise 2: The “flat white” Breath
Explore a relaxed breathing technique perfect for pop and rock music. Visualize ordering a flat white at a café, and discover how this breath can enhance your singing experience.
Exercise 3: Breath Control for Belting
Learn the secrets of breathing for high, powerful notes. We’ll focus on building subglottic pressure and engaging the right muscles to achieve those breathtaking belting moments.
Part 3: Tailored Breathing Techniques for Pop and Rock Music
Do you find yourself at the piano or belting out tunes in the shower, pondering your breath? Is it a concern for you? Well, unless you’re tackling an epic classical phrase (which we’ve already covered), you’re probably just fine.
Understanding Breath in Pop and Rock
Rest assured, in most pop and rock songs, when singing within a comfortable range and volume, a more relaxed breath suffices. Picture yourself casually ordering a flat white at a coffee shop. How much breath do you really need for that? Similarly, consider the breath you employ when simply speaking the lyrics of a song.
Exceptions in Pop and Rock
There are exceptions, of course:
- Breathy Voice Quality: If you’re aiming for a breathy voice quality, like Billie Eilish, you might need to adjust your breath intake or sing at a lower volume. Microphones tend to pick up more breath than one might expect, so experimenting with different approaches is key.
- High and Gaspy Breaths: Another exception is if your breaths are high and gaspy. This signals tension in your throat, hindering the breath from settling in your lungs. Instead, envision allowing the breath to drop in naturally, simply by opening your mouth. Remember, it’s often about doing less, not more.
- Avoiding Over-Breathing: You might just be breathing in too much, causing your shoulders to rise and tension to build in the upper chest. I want you to try the belly breathing actually, it could be due to tension in the mid-section, and we want you to take on less breath. Remember we did that exercise about breathing high, well it builds up tension and we want for a comfortable vocal tone, for there to be less tension.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these exceptions are crucial to consider. I delve into various fixes and exercises for mastering belly breathing in my online course, “Sing Without Strain.” Check out the description for more details.
Part 4: Mastering High and Loud Phrases
I’ve saved the best for last – breathing techniques for tackling high, powerful notes, ideal for belting, mixed voice, and everything in between. This technique isn’t used throughout an entire song, but it’s invaluable for those climactic moments.
The Key to High Notes
Remember our discussion on vocal folds? To achieve a louder sound, we need to build up subglottic pressure, or pressure beneath the vocal folds, thickening them for increased volume. In simple terms, greater pressure equals a louder sound.
Conclusion: Tailoring Your Breath for Your Unique Style
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to breathing; it’s about finding what works best for you.