Thursday, June 5, 2008


Breath Control for Singers and other Musicians
The human voice is the most powerful mode of expression. The singer must learn absolute control over the breath support system and resonating areas in order to sing. Breathing is the foundation for all good singing. As singers, we must develop an awareness of the mechanics of breathing. To develop the art of proper breath control is to enhance the tone, hold a note for a longer duration, extend the range, and project the tone with ease thereby giving us freedom to sing expressively.
The greatest human need is air. Cut off the oxygen supply for more than a few minutes, and we die. Good breathing is the basis for all good singing. It is the energy for articulation, resonance and phonation. The breath actually supports singing. It is the "cushion" for sound. If the tone is weak, too little air is being released. All breathing is diaphragmatic. There can be no movement of air into the lungs without activity of the diaphragm.
The dome-shaped diaphragm muscle is attached by its edges to the lowest ribs, the costal arch, the base of the breast-bone and (at the back) to the front of the lumbar spine. To activate this muscle, we must inflate the abdominal wall.
When we speak, we use only a small portion of the lung capcity. We do not take enough air into the lungs to sustain sound. This results in a weak tone, small vocal range and even singing off key. Vocal abuse can be a result of insufficient air. Vocal nodules (small blisters on each vocal band) can occur if we continue to sing without enough air for the tone to ride on.
There are three aspects of breathing that the singer must acquire:
The ability to inhale large amounts of air
The ability to take a good breath quickly
The ability to control the air as it escapes
The singer must learn to intake maximum air and maximum expulsion must be developed. An easy exercise for learning proper breathing is to lie down on your back, place a heavy book on your abdomen centered at the waistline and lift it up ads you inhale, hold for about 3 seconds then lower the book as you exhale slowly. Your breathing should fall easily into the right place. The expansion of the lungs and rib-cage is not only at the front of the body. The sides of the ribcage and even the back expand as well.
Another exercise is to sit on a firm, straight-backed chair, hang your arms and move the elbows away from the sides of the chest.. Take a long slow breath and do not move the shoulders. Expand so that your back swells and presses against the chair. You will feel the sensation of waist and back expansion while inhaling.
We must also learn how to expel the air to completely empty the lungs. (This gets rid of stale air and then new, clean air oxygenates the entire lung tissue.) As we sing one phrase after another, we want to empty the lungs of air to allow the body to set up proper conditions for inhalation. Your new way of breathing must be practiced until the act of inflating around the waistline and ribcage become automatic.
Diaphragmatic breathing takes consistent practice. It will eventually become automatic. It is the only way to rid our bodies of the carbon monoxide we breathe in daily and replace the unhealthy air with pure oxygen. Actually, everyone would do well to learn and practice diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing. Correct breathing can be practiced while sitting, bathing or lying down.
The vocal cords are half an inch in women and three quarters of an inch in men. They may be up to one inch in length as in Caruso's. When we have control of our voice we can just about sing whatever we want with ease and without straining the voice.
Breathing is 80% of singing. A note is vibrating air. Once we master breath control we are able to perform any song with ease.

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