Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
It seems simple enough.
Inhale, sing, inhale, sing, inhale, sing.
Not that simple.
I told someone last week that if you can’t breathe, you can’t sing. In the most black and white terms, that may seem obvious (if you can’t breathe unassisted, you are either dead or mostly dead and therefore in no position to sing!). But breathing for singing is a much more deliberate and managed action than sitting at your desk breathing.
As you read this post, draw your attention to your breath. Does your chest rise and fall? Does your belly move at all? Is there any movement in your torso when you breathe, or do you suddenly feel the need to take a deep breath? In our day-to-day interactions, most of us do shallow ‘chest-breathing’. If you are a practitioner of yoga or martial arts, you will know that a good low breath is vital to the most effective expression of a pose or technique. You must apply the same consideration of breath to singing.
Watch this short demo video excerpt on breath to get a basic view of your respiratory system.
To find that movement on your own, lay on the floor or your bed and put one hand on your belly. Your hand should be moving up and down with your belly when you breathe.
Practice several slow breaths like this until you have the feeling that you are breathing lower. Now stand up and try the same thing. You may feel slightly dizzy if you are doing this for the first time. It’s normal – it’s part of the more oxygen-rich blood going to your brain!
Breathing for singing has a few more steps than just inhale-sing. It goes something like this:
- Think about what you are going to sing – hear the first note in your mind’s ear, hear the word and vowel.
- Inhale (low) – feel the excursion of the ribs – inhale to about 70% of your maximum – you shouldn’t feel tense or tight in your shoulders. Ideally inhale the shape of the vowel you will be singing (part of thinking about the word).
- Suspend briefly.
- Sing, regulating your air – keep the ribs suspended and control the airflow using the diaphragm.
If I were to break it down into another image, imagine a cat jumping up onto something – the cat will judge the distance (prepare), gather (inhale), jump (suspend) and land (sing).
The next time you practice on your own, try breaking down your breath into the above steps. Explore your breath on a slow basis then try it with some music.
Some research suggests that breathing deeply on a regular basis leads to great health improvements. We all want to be healthier, right? Start today with more conscious, better breathing and you will feel the difference!
This will be the first in a series of posts about Breath – there are simply too many wonderful about singing and breathing to squeeze into one post!
As always thanks for reading. If you are inspired, please share and follow!
- Breathe, Just Breathe. (dailyritual365.wordpress.com)
- If you are curious about a trying non-singing-specific breathing exercises, try these here.