It’s All About Breathing.  OK, It’s All About Breathing and the exhalation.

When most of us inhale, the chest lifts and expands.  It may feel like a deep breath, but the air is only filling the top part of the lungs and the diaphragm rises.  To get a true deep breath, the chest should stay relaxed and still and the abdomen be allowed to expand instead.  Now, the diaphragm drops and the lungs are much more full.   It takes some effort to puff the stomach out, consciously, as you inhale but when we remember that we breathe like this when we sleep, we recognize just how natural breathing deeply really is.

Practice this kind of breathing often throughout the day.  Teach your body to take in more oxygen.  This, in and of itself, helps relieve stress.

Singing.  Most people sing like they speak, using the walls of the throat to push air through the vocal chords.  To keep that from happening, the air needs to come from another place.  So, now that the lungs are completely full and the tummy is puffed out, use those abdominal muscles to push the air out hard, so eventually your throat can relax.  Relearning to use these muscles for singing will eventually shift our speaking voice as well from a tightly produced, narrow sound to an open, round, soothing one!
Here are a few exercises to practice this technique-

Fill up and hiss.   Inhale a deep breath puffing your tummy out, but this time, push it out on a “hisssss.”  Push the air out quickly and notice how your tummy feels.  Try a “th” sound and an “f”.  Use your teeth, tongue and lips as a resistance  to push against.  Feel how the waistline muscles do the work.  This contraction is essential every time a tone is produced.

  1. Hiss long and hard… a long push of the breath as fast as you can push.   Push until you can’t any more expelling all your air
  2.  Hiss short and fast. Controlled out-bursts of air.  Still pushing as hard as you can. Push until you can’t any more expelling all your air

Notice that many more muscles are involved than just the little diaphragm.  Can you feel you abdominal muscles working?  Can you feel it in your external obliques?  (side muscles)  Can you feel it in your back?  The harder you push, using all the muscles, the stronger those muscles get and the easier singing becomes. The more you empty yourself of air by pushing with those waistline muscles, the more those same muscles will BREATHE for you, instead of the habitual chest.

NOTE: I no longer feel the extreme grip of those muscles and the excessive airflow. But for me the strength developed when I over exaggerated in practice both the waistline push and the release of air when I sang as an exercise. Keep reading and you’ll feel what I mean.

Fill up and buzz.  Some call it a “motor boat” some the raspberry, but the lip buzz by any other name is still the same!  When your lips keep buzzing, you will feel no pressure on the throat at all.  It’s another great way to practice and to strengthen the right muscles.

Fill up and buzz continued…

  1. Buzz with no tone for as long as you can.  The idea is to run out of air before your lips stop buzzing. Push until you can’t anymore
  2. Short and explosive buzzes up and down 3 notes.  When your lips buzz, you are effectively using the right muscles to push out the tone.
  3. Pick a note, any note.  Buzz this note as long as you can.  Notice that you’re using the same abdominal grip to buzz your lips, as you did to hiss.  Again, run out of air before your lips stop.  When your lips stop before you are out of air, it means your ab muscles have stopped pushing, which would mean that the throat is working instead.
  4. Sing a song with the motorboat.  Notice where your lips want to stop and start.  It’s a good indication of where your throat still wants to grip.  The better you get at the motorboat, the less your throat will work.

When I practice every song first with the motor boat, my body memorizes how to sing it with the organic muscles of the waist. Then when I sing it with the words, I don’t think about how to breathe, how to push etc, I just sing and allow the voice to come from the depths of my abs. The more I use this technique, the easier it all becomes!

Next month- Adding the words to the breath! Stay “tuned!”

Vocally Your, Lauren Lane Powell