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Today I would like to talk to you about the difference between the low-pressure system and the high-pressure system for singing, which will explain why is it so hard to sing.
The larynx has a lot of different functions and singing is not the main one. It is involved in a different way in so many activities! We divide that into two big groups: the high-pressure system functions, and the low-pressure system functions.
We use the high-pressure system function when we push things away from us. For example, when you push an object out of the way, or every time you need to repel something away from your body such as going to the toilet or giving birth.
What happens when you are using the high-pressure system is that the exhaling valve closes as well as the inhaling valve (vocal cords). The exhaling valve doesn’t have a lot of muscle, so when it closes everything around closes. This is a very effective system if you want to lift weights or yes just repel things away from you in a very effective way, or protect your organs.
You use your low-pressure system when you are bringing things towards you, for example when you are doing things like climbing, or reaching for something. You also use your low-pressure system when you are doing things that require fine motion and differentiation such as playing an instrument, dancing, etc, and when you are in a social environment sharing a nice moment with your friends.
The low-pressure system came much later in evolution and you use it when you need to do things that are very differentiated. Things that will require fine movements from small muscles.
You might be wondering what does all of that have to do with singing! And this is where I answer the question: why is it so hard to sing?
When we speak we tend to use the high-pressure valve system and that is enough to speak. But if we want to sing it becomes a problem because singing requires you to start having some differentiation in the voice muscles.
If you see a singer that is really good you’re gonna see that when they sing they are able to move their head around freely as well as the rest of their body. They are not stiff on stage. This is a characteristic of the low-pressure system in action. Especially when you see a singer performing melodies that require a lot of voice flexibility, using the low-pressure system for singing is a good idea.
When we are just starting our singing journey, we sing from the high-pressure system. Because that is how we speak! Usually and you’re going to notice that your neck muscles tighten.We need to learn to use the low pressure valve system from the beginning in order to achieve a strong foundational singing technique which you need for any music genre you sing.
One of the reasons why this is hard to do is that when we are in alert mode we activate the high pressure system automatically, because your body is getting you ready to escape or to fight, or to protect your organs, etc. It’s not a system in which you can be vulnerable and free and have a free voice. It just doesn’t make sense for your brain!
Look at the singer below: Observe how he moves his body freely! And his jaw… a highly differentiated system he has!
If you are singing from a high-pressure valve system, you are going to notice that you are either yelling, flipping registers involuntarily, etc. And you can feel it in your body too: you might notice that you are tightening your abs quite a bit, and you are you’re probably feeling a constriction in the throat.
The low-pressure system is a little bit harder to activate voluntarily to sing. It’s more refined. it requires more differentiation and that is why it takes longer to develop when you are singing. It takes quite a bit of practice because it’s a system that requires a little bit more introspection. And that is why singing is so hard!
So how do we turn this natural tendency around to make singing more easy?
There are many ways you can do it but all of them require the magic word: practice!
The low-pressure system is activated when you, for example, are having fun with your friends, socializing, feeling safe in the space, when you are playing, when you are being creative, when you’re being curious, when you are observing, and perceiving your sensations internally, meditating, etc.
One of the ways that you can start training this for singing is by working on your breathing. A really good way to do this is by this exercise in which you breathe in opening your arms to a 90 degree angle, and then you sing while keeping your arms up. What this does is: you’re breathing, you’re activating your inhaling muscles and then when you sing your arms are still up, so your inhaling muscles are still open and your low-pressure system is more likely to be activated.
Check the video below where you will find the exercise demonstrated:
Some things that will tell you that you are you might be activating your lower pressure system when you are singing are:
– You sing and you can freely move your head without interrupting the flow of sound. If you can’t differentiate both, and your movements are tight, you are probably singing from your high pressure system.
– Your spine is long, you’re not shortening it (you’re not bringing your body weight to your heels).
– Your jaw is flexible and mobile when you sing. It is not stuck in the same position when you change pitches.
– Your breathing when singing is silent.
– You sing immediately after breathing, you don’t hold your breathe in between.
Developing singing from a low pressure singing is not only nice and desirable, it is also crucial if you intend to learn singing at a high level. If you wish singing wasn’t so hard, it is a good idea to start learning this!
Benefits of singing from a low-pressure valve system
Does this sounds too long and complicated and you need some processing time? I have something for you. I have put together some slides and I offer them to you today. That way you have them close to you to practice any time you want!
You can download them in a PDF form from the button below:
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