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!

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