Need to hold notes for longer? Running out of air when you sing? Need to develop a clearer tone? Well here's your ever so practical latest blog post.
Well firstly let's look at what it is. Breath control is about controlling the outflow of air from the lungs across your vocal folds and out through your mouth. The speed with which the air is exhaled determines the quality of your sound. So if the air flow is rapid, you're going to be producing a breathy tone, if it is slow, you're going to be a producing a much clearer tone with no breath escaping. Which one is ideal? Well the latter for default purposes is usually considered the healthiest, otherwise if you are constantly singing breathy, you're gonna be drying those vocal folds out!
The vocal folds are a muscle layered with mucosal tissue. Since they are a muscle it means they can get more efficient at weight lifting (just like your thighs or butt)! The vocal equivalent of weight lifting is the ability to hold back greater levels of air (aka sub glottic pressure). This means that the ability to control the outflow of air is, in fact, a function of the larynx rather than a function of the diaphragm. Yes the abdominals do play a part, but that's only half the story. Read on
1. Close Them Vocal Folds
Breathing exercises are good, but learning vocal chord closure is better. When we're not very practised or not very warmed up our vocal chords don't close properly. So try this, in falsetto/head voice/thin folds try saying "one two three four five" as if you're crying. If you're doing it properly (half arsed efforts don't cut it) you'll feel the pressure underneath the vocal folds increase, along with the pressure in the abdomen. This increase in breath pressure is what happens when you consciously REDUCE the airflow. Ladies for you this will be between a B-D above middle C and gents this will be F-A (above middle C). If you're not sure what crying sounds like try whimpering like a puppy with your mouth closed.
Here's the other thing you can do. Employ more twang! A lot of beginners shy away from twang because of it's brash quality, but hear this. YOU NEED TO TWANG WAY MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU DO, especially to create vocal stability!! So, in modal/chest voice/thick folds speak loudly "one two three four" as if you're Janice from Friends. If you go higher in this voice quality you'll feel the breath pressure increase for sure. Just by doing these simple things you will massively improve your breath control... Try singing a phrase with increased twang or cry (or both) that you couldn't do before without running out of air.
2. Breath Placement Awareness
Learn to place the breath in various parts of your torso so you can gain a mindful awareness of your breathing mechanism. For example, as you breathe IN, relax and expand the abdomen (this allows the diaphragm to flatten properly). Then, carry on breathing in to the sides of the chest to allow your rib cage to expand. In singing it's not usually wise to take the breath up into the clavicle area as TOO MUCH air in the lungs actually forces the vocal folds apart when you then go to sing. However if you want to try this, by all means go ahead. All of it gives you an awareness of how your body works so none of it's bad. The other thing is, on the in breath, mindfully see if you can feel the air moving your lower back. This is a good one to help you sense the depth of your breath.
The reason this mindful awareness of your breathing mechanism is important is because it helps you to understand where to place the breath depending on the amount of air you need in your lungs. So the more air you need (for a longer passage for example) the higher you can take the breath.
3. Work Out How Much Air You Need
Set a pulse of 88 BPM here: https://www.metronomeonline.com
Practice these various combinations with the aim of having empty lungs by the end of the count. Breathe in through the mouth and out through the mouth via a 'blow' or a 'hiss.' You can then replace the blow or hiss with a hum or an oo on a single note.
Breathe in for 1 and out for 8
Breathe in for 2 and out for 8
Breathe in for 4 and out for 8
Then try increasing the out breath by 2 each time, so 8 becomes, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 etc etc.
I hope you found these useful. If you want more information, please contact me. Much Love. x