As the new school year begins, I like to spend the lesson with my singing students refreshing them of the “basics” that get forgotten over the summer. Breathing so often gets overlooked, especially by those relying on microphones in their singing. So here are some dos and don’ts for anyone looking for a quick reminder. For those more experienced singers, I hope the below are a given!
- stand tall. Make sure both feet are flat on the floor, knees are straight but not locked, tailbone is rolled forward slightly, shoulders are rolled back, chin is level and eyes are looking straight ahead.
- practise breathing through your nose, placing one hand on your stomach and one on your mid back to feel how your body changes when inhaling and exhaling. You should feel like a balloon being filled up!
- be aware of how and where you breathe. In yoga you are taught the 3 “breathing zones”: deep breathing, the chest breath and the top up or snatch. Try “finding” each one, one on top of another!
- practise breathing exercises regularly as well as vocal warm ups.
- stand badly or awkwardly.
- raise your shoulders when you inhale. (It doesn’t achieve anything except look funny!)
- suck your tummy in when you inhale. Where’s the air supposed to fit if you make the space smaller?
A couple of exercises to try:
- Place one hand on your tummy and one on your larynx (voice box). Hiss out all the air in your lungs. Imagine you’re swimming under water and are desperate for air. When you’re ready, take a deep gasp of air as if you’re surfacing from the water. If you’ve breathed correctly, you should feel your stomach area expand rapidly with air as your lungs fill, and your larynx “drop” a very little.
- Now place one hand on your tummy and one on your mid back. Hiss all your air out. Take 4 measured breaths in. Hold your breath for 4 counts. Hiss out 4 measured breaths, being careful not to breathe in in-between each one. Repeat with 6, 8, 10… breaths! You should feel your stomach area and back (to a lesser extent) expand as you inhale and gradually deflate as you exhale.