Breathing For Singing..
Does It Really Matter?
Why is breathing for singing so important? Because without breath, without air, we have no voice… we have no sound!
We need breath in order to produce the sound that is our voice. This is why most vocal instructors would emphasize on breath training right from the very beginning, putting students through rigorous breath training in order to build a good strong foundation for singing.
However, before we move on to even the most basic of our breathing exercises, we need to first know how to execute good breathing for singing. This would involve a certain muscle in our body called the Diaphragm, as well as other supporting muscles around the diaphragm.
Our diaphragm is actually a thin sheet of muscle separating our rib cage from the rest of our organs below it (including our stomach and intestines). Its function is to regulate the flow of air in our body, by contracting and relaxing whenever we inhale and exhale respectively.
You may have noticed by now, that you can’t really control your diaphragm when you breathe. It moves involuntarily, meaning you can’t tell it to go up or go down like other muscles like your biceps or triceps. What you can do though, is to inhale and exhale, and this causes the diaphragm to contract and relax automatically.
So, how do we practise our breathing exercises if we can’t control how our diaphragm moves? We can control the muscles surrounding the diaphragm, namely the intercostal muscles around our ribs, as well as our abdominal muscles. These muscles are under our conscious control, and we will be practising some basic exercises for these muscles when we do our breathing exercises for singing.
Now, let’s begin by first drawing in a deep breath of air!
Imagine that you are sucking in a strand of noodle (for example, when we are eating Japanese Ramen.. we need to suck the noodles noisily…) or sucking a deep breath of air through a tiny straw, and letting the air go directly into your abdominal area. Try it now and feel the air being drawn into our abdominal area, moving downwards as well as sidewards. Of course, our air does not actually enter our stomach when we breathe. This is only for visualization and instructional purposes! (For those who do not know, the air goes into our lungs…)
Some important points to note: Our shoulders and chest area should be relaxed when we inhale. If we find that our chest area lifts up high or our shoulders are raised when we inhale, then just rest both hands on your chest and repeat the inhalation exercise with our hands resting on a stationery chest.
Raising our chest and shoulders is a common habit, but it really causes us to draw a shallow breath, and this creates problems later when we need more breath to support our singing, especially for high notes or for long phrases in a song.
Once we have understood how to take in a proper breath of air, we can proceed to some basic breathing exercises that will teach us to control our breath for singing, as well as strengthen the diaphragm and its surrounding muscles, so as to be able to provide better breath support for singing!
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