How exactly can we perfect breathing for singing? Are there magical breathing exercises for singing that will fix all our vocal problems?
Breathing always has, and (I fear) always will, be a complex event that singing teachers will never be able to explain, and students will never understand. "Sing from your diaphragm".
Not so... The breathing exercises that I have been made to do in the past... I began to think that maybe I would never be able to breathe correctly!
Keep it simple
Correct breathing for singing is very simple. It's also best to keep it that way. By doing complicated breathing exercises for singing, we only add tension to our voices. Trying to concentrate on ten things at once is not healthy for our voices!
Just to give you an idea of how to breathe properly, try this little breathing exercise. Stand up straight, nice easy posture, relax your shoulders...
Now, pretend it's the end of a long day....take a big yawn.....Ahhhhhhhh! There we go!
Try again, this time paying attention to how your stomach expands outwards, quite naturally.....And that's it! Easy huh?
It's not actually that necessary to put such an emphasis on breathing correctly. Why? Because correct breathing is a by-product of correct singing technique. This is important so I am going to repeat it.
Correct breathing is a by-product of correct technique.
I am certainly not discounting the value of breathing correctly from the diaphragm. This is an important function that is vital to singing well. I am saying that we don't need to concentrate on breathing exercises for singing, because when we engage the correct muscles in the larynx, the diaphragm will be engaged, automatically, naturally, and correctly.
Speech level singing uses exercises to balance the air pressure around our vocal chords. We do not need to have a great understanding about how the voice works. Instead, we do these special exercises and memorize the different sensations they produce.
Optimal air pressure
The speech level singing process relies on sending the correct amount of air to the vocal chords. As you sing higher into your range, less air is required to the vocal chords. Correct air pressure will allow your vocal chords to 'zip up' (kind of like zipping up your jeans!)
This "zipping up" function of the vocal chords happens to shut off a section of the vocal chords, leaving less free to vibrate. This makes it easier for the chords to vibrate faster....making high notes easy to access.
Yes....This may sound a little bit complicated. The fact is though, you don't really need to understand this concept deeply.
All you need to know is the right exercises to practise. Good, effective exercises will automatically do all this complicated stuff for you.....
.....Leaving you with nothing to do but enjoy the wonderful sound of your voice!
Right from the beginning of the speech level program, the exercises regulate the amount of air pressure sent to the chords. You don't actually need to think about how much air you're sending......it happens automatically.
To sum up breathing, with speech level singing we do exercises. (Not specifically breathing exercises for singing, but does regulate breathing none the less)
These exercises do two important things.
Using breathing exercises for singing can often lead to confusion. Remember....Breathing is not a complicated thing! It's a natural process, and if you do the quick exercise outlined above, you will gain enough understanding of how to breathe.
Another thing to consider....
You do not need breathing exercises for singing to strengthen your diaphragm! These muscles are easily strong enough already......I mean, your vocal chords are extremely small and delicate muscles. Too much support will blast a hole straight through them! (ok, I'm joking there, but you see the point, right?)
My recommendation is to research the singing made simple method. It is by far the best and most effective method of learning to sing. You will be amazed at how powerful the exercises are. And with no specific breathing exercises for singing...
...Who would have thought?!