Breathing for Singers by Kathleen van de Graaff

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    January 5, 2015


    Singing is all about breath; how to breathe, how much breath to take, how to use the breath and how to release the breath. If the breath isn’t used properly, then we won’t have the control to do what we want with the voice. Practicing HOW to breathe is just as important as practicing HOW to sing.

    With that in mind, here are some of my favorite breathing exercises. I have created some and gathered some from a variety of sources throughout the years and use them with all of my own students. They DO make a big difference in the voice. Practice them for no longer than 10-12 minutes, but repeat them twice a day.

    1. Reclined Breathing: Lie on the floor and place one hand on the epigastric umbilical region (the area between the “V” of the rib cage and the naval) with the thumb on the “V” on the ribs and the baby finger on the navel. Take slow, deep, silent breaths from the mouth. The chest and the shoulders should not move. This should be a very relaxed breath. Stand and repeat the exercise. The breath should remain low without any chest movement. Upon inhalation, the lower ribs and the epigastric umbilical region will expand.  
    2. Three part panting exercise: Before beginning this exercise, put one hand on the stomach area and the other hand on the lower rib cage. The stomach area AND the rib area should expand upon inhalation on all three parts of this exercise.  
      • Panting: Inhale and exhale quickly, making sure that both the stomach area AND the rib cage expands during inhalation. Do not allow the chest or shoulders to move while breathing.  Whisper the word “ha” upon exhalation. 

                              Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath)

      • Panting while Speaking : Continue to pant as in exercise two but while exhaling speak the word “ha” in the middle part of your voice.
    3.                             Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath)

      • Panting with a sung pitch : Continue to pant as in exercise two but while exhaling sing the word “ha” in the middle part of your voice.

                                  Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath) Ha (breath)

    4. Slow inhalation/slow exhalation: Inhale counting silently to 3, sustain the breath for 3 seconds and then slowly release the breath for 3 seconds. Keep the chest high and don’t let it collapse while exhaling. Once you area able to do this for 3 seconds without letting the chest rise or collapse, slowly increase the time to 4 seconds and 5 seconds.
    5.                                                   123 …       123...         123…
                                                         inhale       sustain      exhale
    6. Blow out the candle : inhale and while exhaling, divide the breath into 6 or 7 abdominal pulsations while releasing the sound “f’ as if you were trying to blow out six or seven candles consecutively with one breath. Notice the control of the release of breath.
    7. "S" Exercise : Take a slow deep breath expanding the lower ribs and epigastric umbilical area. Keep the chest high. While exhaling, slowly release an “S” sound. Try to do this for 30 seconds, but never take such a big breath that the lungs feel overcrowded. The goal is to keep this area expanded throughout most of the exercise which will in turn help the singer learn how to control and manage the breath. Be cautious not to collapse the chest while exhaling.
    8. Low abdominal exercise: this feels like an abdominal crunch. Place one hand on the epigastric umblical region and the other on the abdomen. Take a deep breath and quickly push out the air saying “ff” Notice that even the abdomen moves slightly. Do ten of these and on the tenth, hold in the abdomen. This firm feeling is the beginning of support. Although the epigastric umbilical and abdomen do not collapse while supporting, there is a foundation and energetic feeling in the abdomen while singing.

    Domenico Productions, Inc. © 2015

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