The Intake of air (the inhale – part 2)

Most of you have heard of “sing from the diaphragm” or diaphragmatic breathing during the singing. Basically this simply means that the ideal way to control your breath is to engage the diaphragm more fully. Well, we can’t simply tell our diaphragms to work harder, or better, or more efficiently. This usually just causes the singer take in way too much breath and creates tension in all the wrong places.

So, back-up and realize that your diaphragm is already doing its’ job. It is simply moving down when you breath in and coming back up when you breath out. This happens automatically.

A great way to engage and exercise this process for better singing is with the help of visualizations. This can be tricky because what works for one, may not work for another.

Step #1 – Check out your habit of breathing now when you sing the chorus of your favourite song. (It’s a good idea to sing in front of a friend or family member to get an honest opinion of what your body looks like when you are singing). Did your shoulders and upper chest rise? Are you taking in a huge amount of breath? Do you feel “something” in your neck and throat area? If any of this rings true, then understanding your breath and taking the time to focus “down yonder” is very important.

Start by lying down on the floor on your back in a relaxed state…..just as you would before you fall asleep. Notice your stomach moving up and down. If you don’t see this just slow down and take the time to “feel” this. It can be a very small sensation. You may be tense and don’t even realize it. Singing can cause an effort or energy level to exist high up in our chest area, so it may take a moment for your relax enough to connect with your abdominal area. It will happen….slow down and be aware.

I’m going to call this belly breathing…but obviously you are not breathing from your belly. A visual that may help you with this is that your belly is a small balloon (SMALL to start), and you are filling it up from your groin area. (I know this may be seem ridiculous so bear with me).

Tap into this groin and lower abdominal sensation as your breath. Now can expand or “enhance” this sensation? Can you make your belly expand further with the intake? Imagine your inhale and exhale is narrow as it would be when you drink through a straw (again you are filling from the bottom up). If you get lightheaded or feel out of balance, that is normal. Just regroup and do it again. You will eventually find a rhythmic balance where you can manage the inhale and exhale of your breath, as if through a straw, and filling your body from the groin area.

OK, now you need to stand up and get that sensation again. Yes, it is more challenging so slow down and take your time. These small awareness steps are huge in the path to better singing.

Breathing is a natural act, so this should never feel forced or tense. Instead teach yourself to relax and “allow” these sensations. Tap into your awareness by using the above visualizations.

Now go have dinner….but with the same breathing sensations. This is a breathing awareness you need to visit all day long.

Breath Support (Part 1)

Breath support is such an interesting feeling. When you tap into the exactness of this coordination with your body, your ability to sing better can explode. The ability to control your voice is what we are talking about here. The ability to manage volume changes, vibrato variations, and change tonal colors are under this umbrella of control that you can achieve from great breath support. Oh and yes, of course….sing high notes with power! We all want to do that!

There are tons of books and you tube videos about breathing and breath control during singing, so check out as much as you can.

The process needs to be broken down into 3 parts; the intake of air, the support of the air you just breathed in, and the output of the air (your singing)! These three steps must work together for optimum breath control. If one is out of sync, the entire process is unbalanced. That’s why you must TAKE YOUR TIME and be aware of the sensations in your body. I will try and describe what I feel through this process. Again, you need to take a step back, get in touch with your body, and stop focusing on the “sound” you want to make.  Focus on the feelings in your body.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and great breath control won’t instantly happen either. So be patient. When you learn what your body needs to do (and feel) to help you sing better, you can better your journey through this awareness.



It’s time to build

So, you are mixing. You have control of your larynx (not too high, not too low), and you are accessing the edges of your cords everyday through exercise, and getting good closure throughout your range. What’s next?

Build up of the voice to the next level is not effortless. In fact, the next level happens beneath the vocal cords. It’s your breathing.

That’s it. Maybe now it’s time to step it up and take in more breath.  But be careful, this does not mean let more breath out.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

If you are mixing with good resonance and cord closure (as mentioned in paragraph #1), then it’s time to make your body work harder.

Practise taking in deep breaths that make your belly extend. Hold it there. Feel the suspended feeling? Feel the buoyance to your upper chest and body? Feel the pressure build up down yonder in your genitals and rear end? There are many visuals that can help you achieve this sensation.

1. Imagine an open umbrella where the cover moves freely, in your abdomen (the open top imitating your rib cage). Not an umbrella that collapses, but an umbrella that waves from open to a little less open in a suspended, wavy but firm, motion (this is you breathing in and out).

2. Imagine holding up one of those plastic, floating, swimming devices around your mid to upper abdomen.  Keep in mind that you must still breath in and out, and keep this sensation of holding up the floating device. Feel the relaxed nature of the rest of your entire body as your abdomen and ribs are expanded while you breath. Notice as you take in the air, the device will tighten a bit around your upper abdomen. The abdomen will naturally fall in a little as you expel some air, but the sensation of holding up the device remains at all times. If this is totally uncomfortable or you feel lightheaded, then take in less air, and engage in these sensations and visualizations using less air.

3. As you expel air while breathing, engage in the pressure feeling of bearing down and build up that happens below your belly button. Control this feeling, learn to love this feeling, get familiar to this feeling; this is your breath support. Once you tap into the sensation of pressure build up in the lower abdominal area, genital and butt area, simply experience it while breathing. Remind yourself that this is your new way of breathing. This is the sensation that you will carry with you all day long while you continue to practise your new way of breathing.

You can use these sensations every minute of every day to help with your voice. You will notice your speaking voice will “pop” with ease when speaking. You will notice the rest of your body (your arms, legs, neck, head, jaw) simply relax into this unique, natural body effort that comes from deep within.

This way of breathing will help you in all facets of your life. You will feel more energy and more alive. Try to find that balance where you can manage these sensations throughout your entire day; not just when you’re singing.

Questions? Comments? I look forward to answering any questions.

Singers, have you slipped?

I haven’t been vocalizing near as much as I should be. I was very motivated at Christmas through to March break; doing my exercises, soaring through my bridges every day. It felt good, I was crooning!

The last couple of months I’ve been busier. Spring is here and I like to get outside in the garden, and take the dogs for a walk. It’s my favourite time of year. The days just fly by.

Yikes! My voice is paying the price. I did a gig yesterday and I noticed the setback. I was specifically having trouble accessing my head voice resonance as I was bridging through my first passagio.

Luckily I knew the steps to take straight away to get back on track. I focused on taking deeper breaths and engaging the abdominal muscles; I backed off on my volume a bit to the point where my vocal cords were “lighter” and I could handle the air pressure enough to focus on my “cry” and onset of each phrase.

If I was in better vocal shape setting out yesterday, my usual warm-up before a booking would have set me up well with the coordination necessary to get the “cry” and “twang” necessary to bridge through my first passagio with ease.

Once I settled in to the “rhythm” where my vocal cords, breath and body were in sync with each other, I was then able to focus on the bigger picture…..the dynamics, the resonance and vocal effects……and of course, the audience!

So, today I’ll vocalize for two sets of 20 minutes, or maybe longer depending on how it feels. I will do this daily (very focused) until I feel I’m back at the top of my game. Then it will be OK to take a day off once in awhile!