Wednesday Warm Up

Hey Everyone!  So I thought I would do something different this week and give you a chance to practice the Techniques we have been going through.  So I wanted to give you some breathing exercises to help you practice what we learned!  I know, I know, you have been breathing all your life and never needed to practice before…but the techniques we use for singing are a little different and we want to make sure that we are actually conscious of how we are breathing and being in control of those muscles!  You can use these to warm up your breathing before singing, and start building your breath capacity so you can eventually sing longer phrases, hold notes longer, and even hit higher pitches!  5 minutes a day with these can do wonders!  Here are just a few of my favorite breathing exercises:

Basic Breathing Exercise

Breathe in filling lungs from bottom to top (like a balloon) allowing your stomach to expand.  Make sure your chest and shoulders do not move up!  Use your stomach muscles to keep your rib cage suspended (like when you hold your breath) while you hiss out…making your hiss/breath last as long as possible

Book Breathing Exercise

Lay flat on your back on the floor.  Place a book on your stomach.  Breathe in and feel/watch the book move up and down as you breathe (think baby breathing).  Then try keeping the book up as long as possible while you hiss out.

Once you are comfortable doing that laying down…try standing up!  Place the book between your abdomen and the wall and hold it up while hissing out.  You can lean in a little but make sure to keep resistance against the book, don’t let it push your stomach in!

You can even do this without the wall, just by pushing the book into your abs and forcing them to resist.

Timed Breathing

Breathe in (using basic breathing exercise) for 5 seconds…filling your lungs all the way up.  Hold your breath for 5 seconds, then hiss out for 10 seconds…getting rid of all your air.  Continue until these times become easy…then up your time, always using the ratio 1-1-2.  (so next would be breathe in for 7 seconds, hold for 7,  then hiss out for 14)

Control Exercise

Breathe in using the basic breathing exercise…as you hiss out, make the hiss louder and softer.  Concentrate on how your stomach muscles tighten and relax to make the hiss louder and softer.  Remember relax does not mean let go!



Making Sound 102: why does my voice break?

It’s Technique Tuesday!!  Unfortunately, my computer crashed and with it my thoroughly thought out blog post for today… so you will just have to watch the video and then comment with some questions and I can take the time to try include answers and clarify when I write out the info!  Happy Singing!


Technique Tuesday: Making Sound 101

We’ve spent a couple weeks on Breathing…and now we get to find out why!  How does our air affect our sound?  Why is it so important that we have control over our airflow?  How does this help me sing?
Well, the answers come when we understand how our voice works.  I like to think of your voice as a string/wind instrument.  Most of us know that our vocal folds are what produce sound…that’s why we think about sound being made in our “voice box” or throat area…cuz it is.  Sound is made by our vocal folds vibrating together…kind of like when you do a lip buzz or raspberry to make car noises or just entertain a baby 🙂  You notice when you do that if you go faster the pitch raises, and what is controlling that speed?  Yep, how much air you are pushing through those lips!  The same is true of our vocal cords.
The vocal cords produce sound much like a string instrument.  Think about a guitar or violin.  The strings vibrate and produce sound.  The specific pitch is determined by how many times per second the string vibrates.  Pretty much the extent of my physics knowledge is how sound waves work in regard to pitch.  The more waves per second/vibrations…the higher the pitch.  Basically, the faster your vocal folds vibrate, the higher the pitch, and the slower they vibrate, the lower the pitch.
The thing is…when you think about a string instrument, the strings are passive!  The strings vibration is what makes the sound but there is always an outside force that causes them to vibrate, whether it’s a guitar pick or a bow sliding across a violin, something else has to make the strings vibrate.
For us, that’s our air!  That’s right…this amazing instrument called our voice is also a wind instrument.  Think about a flute or trumpet…you blow into it and it makes sound.  Often you can change the pitch or sound by how much air you use.  The same is true of our voice.  If you want to raise your pitch, you need the strings (vocal cords) to vibrate faster, so what do you do?  Blow more air through them.
Granted, this is not the ONLY thing you have to do, but it is the most basic.  We can tweek the resonators or how you say vowels or a number of other things all we want, but the truth is if you don’t use your air to make your vocal cords vibrate, it’s not going to matter.  So get used to using that breath control and making sound!  Work your way through your whole range and start to get used to how much air it takes for each note.
One more note:  while a certain amount of tension in your vocal folds can be felt and is necessary…like tuning a guitar string, if you tighten too much, the string doesn’t play and can even break!  Most of us have a tendency to tighten our throats because we are trying to use our throat muscles (constrictors) to force the vocal folds to vibrate instead of letting the air make that happen.  Try thinking about taking that tension from your throat and moving it to your abs.  Check out this video for more:

Breathing 102: Breath Control

It’s Technique Tuesday!!

Now that we have lots of Breath Support (air IN our lungs), next we have to deal with what we do with it once it’s in there, getting it out!  Breath Control is essential for singing!  Let’s review where we are:  We have inhaled (through the nose or mouth, whatever, we’ll cover that later) and our external intercostal muscles pull our rib cage out and our diaphragm pushes down on our internal organs, all of which creates more space for our lungs to expand and helps create a vacuum and draws air into the lungs!  If you just hold it there, you can feel that the pressure starts to build up…some in your throat, but mainly you should feel your abs engage to hold out that rib cage.  Then let go and what happens…your internal intercostal muscles pull on your rib cage and it collapses which snaps your diaphragm back into place and all the air comes rushing out in one big gush.  What we want to do when we sing is control the amount of air that’s coming out…not just let it all out at once.  Which means we have to hold those ribs out and not let them collapse!  This is the real work.  Basically, this is why my voice teacher once told me if I was doing it right, I should feel like I’ve done an ab workout when I’m done practicing.  Yeah!  (Actually, if you use a weight instead of a book in the book breathing exercise, it IS an ab workout)  Best thing I ever heard to help me with this, “Breathe into your strapless bra and think about trying to hold it up” (Thanks Matt Edwards, Shenandoah University CCM Institute)

Then as I’m keeping out my rib cage, I am engaging my internal intercostal muscles (say that 5 times real fast!) to squeeze out my air as well as letting the diaphragm push back up from the bottom. If I think about keeping my ribs out it becomes a little like using my diaphragm like rolling the bottom of a toothpaste tube 🙂  The best way I have found to work on this is to give myself some resistance on my upper abs so I have to push out against something, whether it’s a book or just my hand.  Then I want to work on pushing more and less air out, all while making sure I don’t allow the rib cage to collapse.

Obviously, there are a number of other things to work on when it comes to breathing.  Breathing for your body type, for your specific style of music or tone quality, when you want more or less air, etc.  But all of those things require control of the muscles involved in breathing!  So watch this video for more info and a few exercise to get you started on how to be in control of this usually involuntary function!

Plus…next week we are going to talk about how all of this relates to making pitch!