Breathing and Breath Support

Weekly Teaching Tip – Oct. 17, 2011

I have heard erroneous comments that “Mix SInging” doesn’t teach breath support. This is an understandable misconception since the concept of support is not as frequently addressed directly as are the concepts of bridging and singing with a neutral larynx. The idea is not that we want to sing with our breath unsupported, but rather that support tends to naturally occur when a singer has been trained to achieve a neutral laryngeal posture (speech level) and has balanced the bridges (passaggi) in their voice. The idea that support can be achieved naturally is easily demonstrated by taking your thumbs and placing them into the sides of the waist. Now, naturally and enthusiastically begin to laugh. You will notice that the muscles in your waist spontaneously become involved as you laugh, and that the sound is supported instinctively. You can also feel the same phenomenon when you cough, or call out to someone across the room.

It is possible to use support very well yet not sing with good registration, or a speech-level posture. But it is not as easy to sing with good registration and a speech-level posture and have no support. Support is a function of good healthy singing and will happen automatically in most singers when they have found their speech-level and have balanced the bridges in their voice.

In more advanced singing, we definitely bring into place more resistance and breath compression in order to create a more powerful sound wave. You can feel what breath compression feels like when you blow up a balloon. As you are blowing the balloon up, you will feel a downward pressure in your entire breathing mechanism and abdomen. This is a very similar feeling to the type of compression that is used by more advanced singers. But this much compression is very detrimental if the singer is not maintaining the balanced registration and speech-level posture that we teach.

I often hear that singing is 95% breathing, and if you can breath well you can sing well. I know many people who are runners, swimmers and advanced yoga practitioners who breathe extremely well, and very few of them can sing well. Remember, good breath support is always present in healthy singing; but conversely, not all singers who use good breath support are singing in a healthy manner.

Guy Babasek

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