Sing More Effectively By Learning How to Breathe

The Guardian published an article today written by Bernhard Warner that really got me.  It asks why mega-stars like Adele keep losing their voices. Warner asks what is going wrong in today's voice/singing training.  It's a long read, but very interesting and worth it!  Warner reports how opera singers of prior generations were able to sing amazing pieces by the great composers and not fall into the same trouble today's contemporary pop stars face.  He reports a researcher's findings with opera singer Maria Carbone:              

          "Carbone was nearing 80, but still had a powerful voice. While Carbone sang, Brilla would clasp Carbone’s abdomen to feel what was happening inside her body. Carbone started with an aria from Tosca. As her voice rose, hitting higher and higher notes, Brilla’s eyes widened. 'I could feel this tick, tick. Tick, tick,' she recalled. It was the natural up-down release of her diaphragm. 'Nothing else was happening.' Carbone’s ribcage wasn’t ballooning out as she sang, and there were no deep gulps of air, as is common with today’s big-voiced singers. More amazing still, the movement of Carbone’s abdomen while singing was just as quiet and rhythmic as when she spoke. Brilla added: 'Whereas all the teachers in my life had been telling me to open, open, open' – to exaggerate her breathing and lunge into every high note to produce the biggest sound –Carbone 'was demonstrating the opposite'. "

To this point, I remember several college students who had classical singing lessons prior to my voice and speech class telling me how confused there were.  How could I tell them to feel an easy breath as they vocalize when their teachers had told them to expand the abdomen, push their voices/breath out with the thoracic diaphragm, and pull the mouth wide?  I heard their questions and saw their anxiety as they spoke to me.  I would tell them to trust the journey I am taking them on, explore fully in class, experiment with singing in an easy, but optimal breath/posture, and share their organic discoveries with their singing teachers. Perhaps they could find a more natural and effortless way to produce the same desired tones.  

I read this article and remembered a private voice student which I spent a considerable amount of time. She wanted to access her belting voice and find ways to broaden her pitch range. How did we approach this?  I started her with several weeks of relaxation, breath awareness, and posture. We took that into discovering the tactile quality of her consonants. Can she feel their vibration without forcing anything to happen in her mouth or with her tongue/jaw?  Once there, we explored the resonance of her speaking voice and then took that into her dilute vowels. How can she feel the fullness of her vowels without forcing anything, speaking more loudly, or pulling her lips back?  

After several weeks of working with her speaking voice, we took it into humming and singing. Sure enough, her relaxed, yet optimal breath was all the support she needed for her singing voice.

It came down to this basic guideline: If you want to sing well, you must breathe well. To breathe well, you must open yourself to the body’s natural processes to breath expansion and release.

If she wanted to stay on pitch, she could feel the resonance of her voice on her hard palate.  If she wanted to access those higher tones and even, yes, belt, she could tap into the natural elasticity of her lip's and mouth's musculature to open up into a yawn-like energy.  Her throat stays relaxed, her soft palate rises, and her voice was full of life and vitality.  

She never forced a thing. she surprised herself and felt awesome.

And it all came by trusting in the bodymind's natural ability to pursue what feels good and by honing her awareness of these sensations. 

Force is never an answer for anything.  Let that sit with you.  

Instead, explore, be curious, and play with ease and a keen interest in what you are capable of. Get in touch and let's discover what you can do.