Breath Legato

Weekly Teaching Tip – June 26, 2017
by Chrissy Rogers

Breath legato is JUST ONE of the parts of singing a good legato phrase. In singing phrases, it is so important to have a continuous flow of air that is not interrupted by UNNECESSARY air pressure changes.

What’s the difference between air pressure and airflow? The air pressure is the pressure created below the vocal folds when they are in the closed phase of the vibration. The airflow is the air above the vocal folds that comes out with the sound waves during the open phase of the vocal fold vibration. The ideal ratio is 50/50 pressure and airflow in normal, healthy singing. When the vocal folds close too long in the vibration, it causes unnecessary tension in the voice.

Air pressure X Airflow = Power. If you can learn to increase the airflow and reduce the pressure in the vocal fold vibration, you can achieve incredible power and range with complete vocal freedom and much less effort. Plus, the quality of sound will be incredible because it is achieved by acoustic power rather than power by force. BUT, how powerfully you can sing well is only in relation to how softly you can sing well. Singing softly actually requires WAY more airflow than we think we need.

In the beginning, learning to sing a phrase with even airflow and pressure is more beneficial in the lower range with softer volumes. Think of allowing the vocal folds to close with the least amount of volume and pressure, then focus completely on the airflow taking you to the pitches.

FIRST, you must feel what it feels like to have a completely PASSIVE, HEAVY tongue and jaw. Imagine your tongue and jaw as dead weight. Otherwise, you will not be able to TRUST the airflow as the only stabilizing element.

The ONSET is critical! SUCTION not FORCE! (Bernoulli’s Principle) If you begin the phrase with less pressure and more airflow, it sets up the entire phrase to have an even flow of air and pressure.

Keep ONE continuous airflow per phrase, maintaining even air pressure and volume. Don’t automatically increase pressure and volume for higher notes and decrease pressure and volume for lower notes, maintaining proper vocal fold tension.

ONLY change the air pressure and volume AT WILL. Avoid sudden and abrupt changes in pressure, as well as modes of vibration. Increase the airflow WITH the pressure for high and powerful tones.

DON’T accent the rhythm with the breath! You are not the drummer, you are the singer.

“Support” is NOT holding. It’s MOVEMENT! The movement of the airflow stabilizes the voice and allows the singer to do whatever they want with their voice. The magic of AIRFLOW!!

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