Breathing" (How to get the power without
lunch. Power walk. Power nap.
as long as weíre making ourselves feel powerful by renaming
natural activities, allow me to introduce my superturbo,
patent-pending breathing technique for singers. To be
honest, there's nothing new about power breathing. Every
baby on the planet has the technique down. Power breathing
is what allows infants to scream for hours on end. Obviously,
newborns donít have a lot of muscle strength. So where
does all that energy come from? They instinctively harness
two universal properties: air pressure and recoil.
air around us is pressurized and self-stabilizing. When
the pressure decreases anywhere, surrounding air will
move in to fill the void. This is the motor which drives
the weather, and why the weatherman is always talking
about areas of high and low pressure. On a smaller scale,
when you open a new jar of pickles, youíll hear a suction
sound as the seal is broken. Pickles are vacuum packed,
which means the air pressure inside the jar is much
lower than outside. Unscrew the lid and air is drawn
in. The same thing happens when we inhale. When your
lungs are expanded, the air pressure inside drops. Outside
air then rushes in to equalize the imbalance. Whatís
important to remember is that air doesnít make your
lungs expand -- muscles do.
diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle which sits directly
under your lungs. When it descends, the area inside
your lungs increases. There are also muscles between
your ribs, which spread the cage, and muscles in the
neck and shoulders, which can lift your chest. Any of
these muscles can enlarge your lung space to create
an inhale. Of all these options, the diaphragm is best
positioned. We are often too tight in the stomach area,
though, and donít give it room to drop. Infants are
not tight down there and take full advantage of the
diaphragmís ability to pull in air. Notice how their
bellyís swell like little Buddhas just before letting
go of a wail. Itís a simple principal: the more air
you take in, the more pressure youíll have to cry.
expanded, your lungs are like two balloons. The air
pressure inside an inflated balloon is greater than
outside the balloon. Everybody knows that the pressure
will come out -- with force -- by simply releasing the
balloon, but we fail to apply this universal law to
singing. At the beginning of each phrase, we use abdominal
muscles to drive the air out of our lungs. Not only
is this as unnecessary as squeezing a balloon to empty
it, but it causes all kinds of trouble. Singing requires
a specific amount of pressure; too much force triggers
your throat to hold back air like fingers clamping down
on the neck of a balloon. Control is lost.
other under-appreciated source of power, recoil, also
relies on the diaphragm. Most people incorrectly associate
the words "breathe support" with push. They tap there
tummy and say, "Sing from here. Right?" Well, thatís
half right. To better understand how the whole thing
ties together, letís get creative with anatomy. Itís
been said that the body is a temple but I think it more
resembles a tenement. Imagine your body as a building
that has one studio apartment on each level. Letís call
the first floor the "legs" of your structure. The second
floor represents your abdominal cavity and the third
level is the thoracic cavity (if you want to get fancy,
you can call your head the penthouse). It doesnít take
very long when you live in a building like this to appreciate
that one personís floor is another personís ceiling.
This rule is the same in your body. The diaphragm is
both the floor to the lungs (thoracic cavity) and the
ceiling to the abdomen. Move this divider up and down,
and it enlarges one cavity while compressing the other.
your diaphragm descends, it pushes on everything inside
your abdominal cavity. Since this "room" is jam packed
with furnishings like a stomach, liver and intestines,
everything gets shoved towards the walls. This is why
your tummy sticks out when you inhale correctly. Itís
not filling with air down there, itís just a response
to the ceiling coming down. Compressing your abdominal
cavity doesnít take much effort, as long as its walls
are relaxed. Sucking in your tummy when you inhale locks
everything in place, so the diaphragm canít come down.
The result is a shallow breath that doesnít pack much
punch. We learn from infants crying that creating a
big inhale is important. Even more important, though,
is not pushing once youíre fully loaded. Youíve already
worked for the energy; all you have to do is release.
automatic reaction to compression is recoil. If you
push down on a spring and then quickly release it will
jump back to its original form. The more force you use
to compress, the more force you get back on recoil.
Push down on the spring again but this time slowly raise
your hand. The spring returns at the handís speed. This
is a controlled release. Notice that, to control the
motion, your hand only needs to push downward; thereís
no need to pull up on a spring. The same is true for
your diaphragm. Once the abdominal cavity is compressed,
it wants to spring back. As if it was holding back the
recoil of a spring, your diaphragm should continue to
apply and downward pressure to regulate the air pressure
passing through your larynx. In other words, it "supports
" your voice by making sure that the vocal folds arenít
the spring-back action of your abdominal cavity with
the momentum of high pressure from fully inflated lungs
and youíll have vocal power to spare. Notice that both
of these power sources are passive, the work was done
during the inhale. If you need more thrust, your abs
are always there to add. I know it feels as if you need
to push with your abs in order to make your voice powerful.
Just remember that this desire is a reaction to half-inflated
lungs. Stretching your body will help; start your warm-up
routine with some reaches and side-stretches. Reserve
abdominal push as a last resort, not a first line of
strength. It takes a while to re-train the body to release
the abs on every inhale, but the pay-off will be a voice
thatís truly bouncing off the walls -- just like when
you were a baby.
Baxter is a vocal therapist who offers private and
video lessons. To contact him, call: (800)659-6002.
Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Singer
Origins of Halloween
origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of
Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is
now Ireland, the United Kingdom, and northern France,
celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked
the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning
of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often
associated with human death. Celts believed that on
the night before the new year, the boundary between
the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred.
On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain,
when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned
to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging
crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly
spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests,
to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely
dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies
were an important source of comfort and direction during
the long, dark winter.
commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires,
where the people gathered to burn crops and animals
as sacrifices to the Celtic deities.
the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically
consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted
to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration
was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they
had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred
bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic
territory. In the course of the four hundred years that
they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman
origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration
first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans
traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead.
The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess
of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple
and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain
probably explains the tradition of "bobbing"
for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into
Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface
IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to
honor saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today
that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival
of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday.
The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas
(from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints'
Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain,
began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually,
Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would
make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honor the dead.
It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires,
parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels,
and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve
of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called
American tradition of "trick-or-treating"
probably dates back to the early All Souls' Day parades
in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would
beg for food and families would give them pastries called
"soul cakes" in return for their promise to
pray for the family's dead relatives.
distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church
as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving
food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which
was referred to as "going a-souling" was eventually
taken up by children who would visit the houses in their
neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.
tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both
European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter
was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies
often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the
dark, the short days of winter were full of constant
worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts
came back to the earthly world, people thought that
they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes.
To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would
wear masks when they left their homes after dark so
that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.
On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses,
people would place bowls of food outside their homes
to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting
Of A Holiday
European immigrants came to America, they brought their
varied Halloween customs with them. Because of the rigid
Protestant belief systems that characterized early New
England, celebration of Halloween in colonial times
was extremely limited there.
was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies.
As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic
groups, as well as the American Indians, meshed, a distinctly
American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first
celebrations included "play parties," public
events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors
would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes,
dance, and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also
featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making
of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century,
annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween
was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.
the second half of the nineteenth century, America was
flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially
the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland's potato famine
of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween
nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions,
Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house
to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually
became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition.
Young women believed that, on Halloween, they could
divine the name or appearance of their future husband
by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings, or mirrors.
the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold
Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly
get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft.
the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both
children and adults became the most common way to celebrate
the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season,
and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers
and community leaders to take anything "frightening"
or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations.
Because of their efforts, Halloween lost most of its
superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning
of the twentieth century.
the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular,
but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide
parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best
efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began
to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities
during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully
limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday
directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers
of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties
moved from town civic centers into the classroom or
home, where they could be more easily accommodated.
Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of
trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating
was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community
to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families
could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing
the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American
tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today,
Americans spend an estimated $6.9 billion annually on
Halloween, making it the country's second largest commercial