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HI, I'M JORGELINA
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Today I want to share with you some tips on how to have good breath support while singing.
A few months ago I got sick and ended up developing laryngitis. That completely took my voice away. Unfortunately, at that moment I was in which I did need to communicate verbally so I couldn’t get the complete vocal rest that I needed.
That resulted in my having a longer recovery time. The main thing that I noticed was that my breath support suffered dramatically! And that affected my ability to hold long notes, among other necessary vocal skills.
So I had to return to some basic skills and take some steps back in my vocal routine to get my breath support back.
So why did I lose my breath support? Well, my vocal system was extremely irritated after laryngitis. Also, to help with laryngitis a doctor sent me to have two injections (I still don’t know what they had on them), and corticoid pills for two weeks. I was kind of glad that I lost the second box of pills! Because one of the things that affect our voice is feeling unsafe. I didn’t trust those medicaments, and I think that affected my voice as well. Whenever we feel unsafe, our voice system tends to shut down. I cover this topic some weeks ago in one of my articles.
So anyway, it was an extremely dramatic time for my voice. When my voice was back and I could sing again, I came back to my singing training taking it quite easy. And that is the first point:
We do! There are so many elements that influence the functioning of our vocal system. These are the bases of holistic singing! In this case, a combination of physical and emotional factors resulted in me having a weaker voice than usual. After a few weeks of vocal training, I was getting stronger again but I did notice that my breath support while singing was not the best.
In my case, my breath support recovery needed two elements:
My voice healing meant that I had to take care of my body as a whole as there were some imbalances. So if this is you as well, and your voice feels really sore after a night out or a big cold, you have to be gentle with your body and take care of it. Drink plenty of water, make sure you sleep enough so your voice muscles can recover, and try not to talk too much until you feel better. Avoiding caffeine is also a good idea when you are trying to get your voice back.
The next part, of course, is the specific breath support training. If this is something you have to work on, whether in general or as a result of a voice injury, you can try some of these tips:
You probably have heard before that for singing we need to breathe for the diaphragm and other vague phrases like that. You have to be careful when you try to follow those suggestions without fully understanding what they mean. Usually, when someone comes to my lessons with those ideas in mind, what I find is a singer that tightens their belly really strongly and as a result tenses their chest too much.
When you do that, you are messing up with your diaphragm’s ability to control your air pressure, and therefore, you are destroying your air support.
Finding the perfect breathing for singing takes a long time for most people, but the absolute priority is to keep your chest relaxed when you breathe for singing. Breathing while your abdomen inwards will not only mess with the air pressure you use for singing, but it will also affect the health of your vocal system, creating a cycle in which your voice is weaker every time. And so you have to push and force it more every time!
Training your intercostal muscles will help you get good breath support while singing. Untrained singers usually constrict their ribs at the time of singing, and that also messes up your diaphragm’s ability to control your airflow.
So one thing you can do is to train those intercostal muscles through movement coordinated with breathing and voice.
To practice this, you can watch this video:
This exercise will help you to improve air capacity, but it will also improve your breath support while singing.
Once you have practiced it for a while, try adding sound to it. Instead of holding your breath, once you finish breathing and raising your arms, immediately start singing while lowering your arms. First, you can try this exercise with a hissing sound. Summarizing: 8 counts to breathe in while you raise your arms, then 8 counts to hiss while you lower your arms.
Too hard? Start smaller! Too easy? Try to hiss for longer! Can you hiss for 10 counts? 15? 20? 30? If not, work your way up to it!
And then you can also practice with a vowel sound. Practicing this exercise with a vowel is harder because it is more difficult to control your airflow when you are singing with more space in your mouth. Try with an “oo” sound first, on a pitch that is comfortable for you. You will probably not be able to hold it for as long as you can hold your hissing, but you should be able to hold it for 5 seconds at least. Try to work your way up to 10 seconds.
Important: You shouldn’t turn purple when you practice these exercises! The idea is that you build your breath support to hold a note comfortably. If you start tightening your body to last one more second, stop immediately. Sing for as long as you can comfortably, and build up your breath support from there.
These are exercises that you can do every day. The progress will probably be slow but steady, and you will enjoy a stronger voice that feels much better to use!
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