Breathing For Singing Is Way Easier When You Stop Taking A Breath!
What if I said that your singing will dramatically improve if you stop actively taking breaths?
You would probably think I was nuts. But hear me out. . . . .
I hate the phrase “take a breath”.
It implies a certain violence – a grabbing, a taking, a fast manipulation to pull as much air into the body as possible in the shortest amount of time. This inevitably creates tension in the ribs, in the muscles of the abdomen, in the muscles of the neck and throat that surround the larynx and tension in the jaw. In my experience, excess tension in a singer’s body is the number one saboteur of a good sound.
By “taking” or grabbing a breath, you are setting up the rest of the phrase you’re about to sing from a place of tension rather then from a place of open release.
The ensuing phrase will suffer because you receive much less air then you would if the body was free, open, soft and released during the inhale. Additionally, if you breathe with tension in your neck, throat and abdomen, that tension inevitably continues throughout the sung phrase and will negatively affect your resonance and pitch.
Instead of “take a breath”, when breathing for singing I prefer singers give themselves the direction to “let a breath come in”.
Why? Because when you “let a breath come in”, you allow the laws of physics to work for you rather then against you and the body reacts much more efficiently. In physics, The Law Of Equilibrium states that the pressure of a gas wants to equalize on either side of a membrane. For our purposes, that means when our lungs are empty and it’s time to inhale, the air pressure inside our lungs is different then the air pressure outside our body. When we apply the Law Of Equilibrium, we find that WE DO NOT HAVE TO DO A THING TO HELP FILL OUR LUNGS WITH AIR. The air will arrive in our lungs on its own because the difference in air pressure wants it to be in there. When we “take a breath” (when we physically do something to help pull the air into our body) we create tension that actually gets in the way of this efficient mechanism. If instead we merely release our ribs, our belly, our throat, our jaw, and our mouth to let the air come in freely on it’s own, we receive more air and our resonance improves because we are able to start our next sung phrase from a more free, open and less “muscled” (tense) place. That is the foundation of freedom from which good singing technique is built. I’ve seen it work time and again, all because a singer changed the way they were thinking.
The words we use to talk to ourselves around our technique really matter. The next time you sing, be conscious of giving yourself the new direction of “letting the breath come in” instead of “take a breath” and see how much this change in thought creates an overall change in sound and feeling.
Practical Experiment: Blow all the air out of your lungs. . . get rid of it entirely. Then all at once release open your ribs, throat, jaw and mouth and soften your belly to let the air come in. You will feel the air flood into the space you created. Notice that you received plenty of air without having to physically take it, pull it or draw it into your body in any way. This is the sensation of “letting a breath come in”. All you have to do is create the space and the air will follow.
See my earlier post, Video: Exercises To Maximize Breath for further demonstration of how to “let the breath come in”.