Breathing is so fundamental to singing that talking about it can feel almost cliched. As a singer, one of the most frequently heard words was ,'support.' Yet, I remember standing on in the wings during a performance and thinking, I have no idea how to breath. Suddenly, the thing that keeps us alive - the thing we did first as we entered this word this world - seemed alien. Did you release your tummy to make space, open your mouth, suck in? Why did my chest feel so tight and why were the muscles around my neck like rocks? I stood, sweating, before falling on stage in a state of panic and hoping blindly for the best.
Now, after years as a vocal coach, spending hours thinking and talking about breathing, I want to demystify and help us make friends with our breath. Because, really, breathing IS fundamental to singing. It's your power. It is the bow to the violin, the hammer hitting the string on a piano. Without it, singing is like playing a clarinet with no air. We need breath so make sound, and we need a steady stream of air (support from the body) to control sound and to engage musicality.
So, rather than tell you how to breathe, this week we looked at why you already know how to breath (you do it in your sleep) and we looked at all the ways that you already support your sound during your day to day life. These ways are:
- Sounds that naturally engage your breath support (certain consonants, fricatives, plosives, brr, SOVT etc)
- Primal and emotional sounds (pleading, yearning, frustration, calling out etc)
- Physical movements (lifting, pressing etc)
So, here are a few simple exercises to continue the work:
- Observing your own breathing. Sit or lie down and just watch what your body is doing naturally. If you feel tight and stressed then give it time. Observe and get used to the sensation of your stomach expanding as you breath in.
- Use sound that we've worked on, like zzzz, vvv, brrrr (lip trill) and rrrr (rolled tongue) to feel the engagement of your body. Feel how the sound connects to the stream of air that your connecting, and to your body.
- Try singing on emotive sounds that natural engage your body: yearn, plead, let out your frustration - what ever works for you. Try all the heightened feelings you know. Try to feel them and then image that you're in a room full of people and you don't want to show them how you feel, Feel how the feeling is concentrated around your stomach and use that to pour into your sound.
- Try physical gestures to support the sound: sit on a chair and try to lift yourself up, press your hands together in front of your chest. Do anything that engages you stomach.
NOTE: In all of these. please be so careful that the muscularity you create doesn't transfer to tension in your shoulders, neck, tongue or jaw.
Next week, we'll check in and see how this practise went so make a note as you go.
Rachel Lynes -vocal coach
These articles aim to simplify and clarify. My aim is to give you clear exercises that make a big difference.