Ins and Outs of Breathing"
Canadian Musician Magazine
is our life support and an involuntary action that our body
performs, so you would think we couldnt get it wrong.
But, many of us do not breathe properly, especially when we
start singing. This can lead to a host of problems
including hoarseness, vocal fatigue, inconsistent performances
and can even affect your pitching. Breathing should feel free
and easy - extra musculature and tension only serve to drain
you of your much-needed energy. The main elements
involved in breathing are the diaphragm, your posture, the inhalation
and the exhalation. Once a basic understanding of these functions
is developed, you can put it together to create superior vocal
any further, stop. Find a mirror and take in a deep breath.
What does your reflection show? What are your shoulders doing?
Do you look relaxed or tense?
when asked to take in a deep breath will raise their shoulders
and suck in their stomach. In reality your body requires the
exact opposite action to happen - your shoulders should stay
down and the stomach should expand
outward allowing the diaphragm to drop. There should be no dramatic
change in musculature and you should look relaxed. So lets
consider the factors involved in achieving this.
is a dome shaped muscle that separates the chest and abdominal
cavities. It is attached in front to the bottom of the breastbone
and attached in the back about three or four inches lower. The
perimeter of the diaphragm is attached to the inner chest wall.
When you inhale the diaphragm contracts downward giving the
lungs room to expand. At this time the intercostal
muscles between the ribs expand outward creating a partial vacuum.
When you do not allow the diaphragm to drop fully you restrict
the airflow and only partially fill the lungs.
equals great sound. Proper body alignment will maximize your
bodys ability to breathe efficiently and effectively.
So what is good posture?
#1 ~ Finding Proper Alignment
your feet shoulder width apart, weight evenly distributed. Looking
straight-ahead keep your chin parallel with the floor. Do not
tilt it up or down. Envision a string attached to the top of
your head pulling you toward the ceiling. Roll your shoulders
around to loosen them up and then relax them down and
back, they should feel inline directly over your hips. Relax
your knees slightly and tuck your pelvis up.
Try to implement
this posture into your practice routines. Although it may seem
uncomfortable and odd at first, your body will soon adjust to
this optimum alignment.
inhale for singing open your mouth and drop your jaw. Dont
force your jaw downward, instead think of unhinging it, and
simply let it drop comfortably. Allow the air to fall in gently
and fill your lungs. Think of yawning in your breath. It
is important that the inhalation be inaudible. Do not gasp or
suck in the air. If there is sound created on inhalation the
vocal cords have come together and vibrated. This means that
the vocal cords are never allowed to relax fully, putting
unnecessary strain on them.
take muscle to exhale just relaxation. Do not push or force
your air out, this will only cause more tension and strain.
Pushed air causes too much air pressure to build up under the
vocal cords making it much more difficult for them
to maintain their connection. Keep your abdominal muscles relaxed.
controlling the exhale, think instead of allowing the air to
escape. When you exhale try to maintain a small steady stream
#2: Diaphragmatic Breathing
front of a mirror so you can monitor your shoulder tension.
Find your proper alignment. Place a hand on your stomach just
above your belly button. While keeping the shoulders down, allow
the stomach to move your hand forward
as you inhale. Inhale for a count of five, pause, and then exhale
for a count of five. Repeat. Continue to monitor your shoulders.
If you are having difficulty with this coordination try laying
on your back on the floor with your knees bent and
both feet on the floor. Lying on the floor will ensure your
posture is correct and you will be able to monitor your stomach
rise and fall with the diaphragms actions. Repeat the
exercise, and then try to duplicate it standing up. When the
diaphragm contracts downward it slightly pushes your organs
forward. Putting your hand on your stomach enables you to monitor
whether you are allowing the diaphragm to drop.
this may be challenging to some at first remember this is how
your body was designed to breathe. Unfortunately, we often get
in the way of this natural action when we try to control or
manipulate our bodies. Do not be alarmed if you
feel dizzy or light-headed when doing these exercises, it is
simply that your body is receiving an extra abundance of rich
oxygen. With practice your body will adjust.
attention to your breathing in every activity you do throughout
the day. Whether standing in line, walking, talking on the phone
or driving in a car: be conscious of allowing the diaphragm
to contract down as you inhale and relax as you exhale. Once
you feel you have a developed the basics of proper posture and
breathing it is time to transfer it to your song work.
#3: Developing the Muscle Memory
song from your repertoire. Place a hand on your stomach just
above your belly button and find your proper alignment. Sing
through the song one phrase at a time allowing the diaphragm
to drop every time you inhale. Be conscious of exhaling a steady
stream of air throughout the entire phrase. Think of the lyrics
floating on a cushion of air. Try slowing the tempo down as
well, singing through the piece slowly will allow you time to
develop the new muscle memory. Then try working your piece a
tempo maintaining the diaphragmatic breathing.
and proper breathing will provide the most success in producing
good quality sound and overall vocal health. Take the time to
practice these techniques and you will build the muscle memory
needed to carry you into successful performances night after
with kind permission from Tammy Frederick, columnist for Canadian
Musician Magazine and vocal teacher who offers private lessons
and voice workshops through her studio Tammy Frederick's Voice
Studio in Toronto, Ontario.
Visit her website at: www.tammyfrederick.com