Last week, I shared some inhalation and exhalation myths given by Dr Deirdre Michael in the latest edition of the “Journal of Singing” (the official journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing).
Let’s take a closer look at the Inhalation myths.
Myth #1: We need to “feel” the air.
First of all, the whole issue with “feeling” in singing can get confusing because the singer may believe that a certain action should feel a certain way, when in fact it doesn’t. To “feel” or “hear” the air coming in may give you the impression of taking in the right amount of breath for singing, but really, this is just the result of tightening up the throat – which is far from a desired preparation for singing.
The only thing you should feel when you breathe correctly is the expansion of the ribcage and a downward movement of the abdominal contents as we allow the belly to relax. It may happen in a performance which is high in emotion to take in an intense breath that is audible and tight, which is ok once in a while but generally, we should aim for a relaxed breath that is not heard.
Myth #2: We need to work to get the air in; to inhale against a resistance.
When posture is set up correctly, all the singer needs to do is relax the abdominal muscles to allow a new breath to come in. Any feeling of resistance should be reserved for the exhalation, as the goal when we sing is to not let the chest and ribcage collapse (especially on that first note!).
Myth #3: The air pushes the diaphragm down.
Ok, where to start with this one…
Well, we normally cannot feel the action of the diaphragm, making this whole concept seem very mysterious. The most important thing to note here is that when we allow the belly, chest and back to be relaxed, flexible, the diaphragm can then move freely through its full range of motion.
Myth #4: Lungs fill upwards.
The last thing we want is tension in our chest and shoulders and taking a high breath will do that very thing that we are trying to avoid as singers. Here, Dr Michael explains how the lungs fill “down and out”.
Imagine filling up a balloon. The air goes down and out and if you keep blowing more and more air into the balloon, it does go up, but we do not want to go this high with our breathing. As I said, we need our chest and shoulders to remain relaxed, as well as our neck and throat.
I always ask my students to observe their singing instrument in the mirror because all too often, what we are actually doing has nothing to do with what we think we are doing.
I feel one of the best exercises for inhalation is to start the practice session by taking in very long, slow intakes of air while making sure there is no signs of tension (especially around the neck and shoulders).
Stay tuned for next week as we take a closer look at the exhalation myths.
See you next time songbirds.