Breathing while singing – The solution to many voice problems
Breathing while singing is your basis!
No matter which theory book you take at hand or with whom you take lessons: Breathing while singing always comes first. What’s the matter with you? Because it is a prerequisite for all further technical progress. Additionally it influences your musical interpretation.
In the online workshop I will deal with the practical implementation, i.e. how correct breathing influences the sound of your voice when singing. Of course right in the first video. This blog is about theory.
Anatomy of the thorax and chest organs
Breathing takes place in the lungs. Thanks to the air we breathe, we have a voice. To understand how we use breathing to produce sounds, we look at the anatomy of the chest and the chest organs.
The diaphragm separates the chest area from the abdominal area and reaches up higher than the lower limit of the thorax.
The drawing above shows the diaphragm from the front. Muscle strands pull from the inner edges of the lowest ribs to a higher sinewy sinewy center of the spine.
The diaphragm is the most important muscle for respiration, „diaphragm“ means transverse: it lies transverse in the body and is the main respiratory muscle. It curves like a dome. When inhaled, it bulges deeper and the rib-covering chest and intercostal muscles simultaneously lift the ribs and the sternum. Exhalation takes place through abdominal muscles and pectoral muscles, provided that it does not take place passively through relaxation.
The intercostal muscles (but also the back, neck and chest muscles) lift and lower the ribs. The lifting of the ribcage can cause a significant enlargement of the chest space, especially in the lateral direction, which plays a role in breathing when singing.
How does breathing come about?
I see again and again in lay choirs that singers try to suck in more air actively through mouth and nose and try to expand the lungs from the inside. However, this is not necessary at all! The enlargement of the chest area is rather done by the muscle movements of the abdominal respiration. The diaphragm can step deeper and the air can enter. The best way to look at this physical effect is to use a bellows to breathe while singing (and in all other cases):
The air-diluted space is balanced by air flowing through the trachea into the lungs. The lungs passively follow the movements of the chest cavity. Proper breathing when singing means that the lungs do not breathe actively but are ventilated.
Is breathing arbitrary or controlled when singing?
Arbitrary breathing is physically possible. During sleep, for example, the respiratory muscles work independently like the pulse of the heart. When singing, however, it is important that you know exactly what you are doing. They learn the so-called abdominal flank breathing.
Of course, you don’t really breathe into your stomach, because that’s not where your lungs are. The abdominal muscles move through the diaphragm. So why do we talk about abdominal breathing when we are talking about breathing while singing? Quite simply, the diaphragm has no sensitive nerves and therefore we cannot control it directly. When the diaphragm sinks, it gains cubic capacity because the ribs in the lateral parts of the chest lift and the chest space can be greatly enlarged.
In phoneation breathing (breathing while singing and speaking), in contrast to resting breathing, exhalation is the more active part: the exhalation phase is usually much longer. The exhalation adapts to the meaning of the sung or spoken phrase and is also controlled by emotions and thoughts.
The psyche and breathing while singing
Already in ancient times the seat of the soul was located in the diaphragm. The vernacular teaches us sayings such as „I’m holding my breath there“ or „One’s voice is taken away by it“. Do you know it? You call your best friend and notice: „You, there’s something wrong with your voice“ or „I hear it in your voice: You’re in love!“
If you are relaxed and feel well, your breath is deep. The muscles, including the diaphragm, are relatively relaxed. This has a strong effect on the larynx. The perfect air pressure can be created by the favourable breathing while singing, the breathing air flows through the vocal chords and the so-called Bernouilli effect can occur. Now you no longer have to squeeze or press your throat to create sound.
The further one gets in singing lessons, the more it becomes clear how important the psyche or the attitude is when singing. So singers also have to work hard on their personality. Actually, the throat itself is not the sensitive organ; the mental condition is much more decisive for singing as it influences the entire musculature.
I am not just talking about severe depression, stress or other extreme situations. If you just sit there in your choir and have to sing high notes with a Gloria, it won’t work out. Breathing while singing means to climb into the music! The high tone of the Gloria (or whatever example you want to choose) must be experienced as glorifying. Only then will it have its musical justification and only then will you be able to build up the right body tension to hit the tone with a free vibrating throat. On a Schubert song in the free video I show it to you.
Breathing while singing – Not only the respiratory musculature participates…
but also the vocal folds in the larynx. They not only produce the voice, they are also responsible for regulating the breath. Important here is the subglottic pressure: the pressure of the exhalation flow immediately below the elastically tensioned vocal chords. Changing the pressure also changes the quality and intensity of the sound. Even the pitch is influenced.