Friday, July 01, 2016

Breathing Basics

Pretty much everyone has heard that breathing for singing involves using 'the diaphragm'. It's best to think of this a Lower Chest breathing. When we breathe in the upper chest, this is a shallow and rapid breath. Lower Chest breathing gives us a slower, deeper breath and allows us fine control over the breath pressure on the exhale.

Here's the number 1 basic exercise for taking control of Lower Chest breathing.
  1. Lie flat on your back with arms by your sides
  2. Place one of your hands on your solar plexus area.
  3. Spend a few minutes just allowing yourself to relax, and your mind to calm.
  4. Become aware of the movement of breath in your body... the hand on your midriff will be slowly rising and falling as the air flow in and out.
  5. Feel how it is the gentle expansion of the lower (floating) ribs that initiates the inhale cycle.
  6. Now in your mind begin a count of 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 repeating, a nice easy tempo (90 bpm).
  7. For a while (maybe 10 cycles) breathe in to the count of 4, and out to the count of 4.
  8. Then start to hold the breath at the top and bottom of each cycle: Like "In - 2 - 3 - 4 , Hold - 2 - 3 - 4, Out 2 - 3 - 4, Hold - 2 - 3 - 4..."
  9. Repeat for a while, then go back to simple inhale- exhale without the hold.
  10. Now on the exhale, allow the cords to close 3 times like 'Ho Ho Ho', just gently dividing the exhale into 3 segments. Make sure the back of the jaw is dropped in the singing position.
  11. After a while, change the sound to a continuous mmm, just whatever pitch is confortable. Feel how the air from the bottom of the lungs connects to the mechanism in the throat. 
  12. When you  are done, relax a minute, roll over and gently sit up.

This is an example of 'indirect control,' a concept we use a lot in singing. We have taken an action (lay on the back etc) in order to trigger the body into a certain action (implement Lower Chest breathing).

Much of the control of the singing voice is done by similar indirect means. Cord closure, head-chest balance, intensity are all indirectly controlled.

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