Let’s Take a Breath

closeup of someone blowing on dandelion seedsFor singers, the goal of breathing exercises is to let the body learn to take care of breathing on its own. (As always, we practice technique so that we won’t have to think about it when we need it.)

As singers our job is to control the exhale. Singing is (usually) done on the exhale, so we want control in order to regulate pitch, tone and vocal color. We want filling the tank (inhaling) to take care of itself.

When I work with singers, we work on “releasing” the inhalation. When we inhale properly, the diaphragm drops quickly, without drama, and the shoulders and neck remain calm and still. (We also get more air faster.)

child blowing bubblesYou may have heard that babies and young children are the best, or most natural, breathers. Most of us show up breathing well. Over our many years of being in our bodies, however, we pick up a bad breathing habit or two. Maybe it’s poor posture (which constricts the torso and limits the amount of air we get) or maybe it is shallow, or clavicular, breathing (breathing only into the “top” of the lungs creating lots of movement in the shoulders and upper chest, shortening the neck and bringing tension to the torso and rib cage).

When you are working on a breathing (or vocal) exercise, try exhaling first. Exhaling first prepares you to inhale and then sing. Think of your breathing exercises as beginning with the exhale and ending on the inhale.

(Or if you want a more existential/meditative idea, when you inhale, imagine that the universe is exhaling into you. When you exhale, imagine the universe is inhaling that air from your lungs.)

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