Breath “Support”

To simplify what’s going on between your breathing and vocal muscles, you’ve got to simplify what’s going on in your mind. Phrases like, “sing from the diaphragm” and “support the tone” get thrown around a lot by singers. They make it seem like there some special behavior we should be concentrating on. I often get comments from beginners like, “Where should I breathe?” or, “I don’t know how to breathe.” Which sound kind of silly when you think about it. Of course you know how to breathe; you wouldn’t be alive if you didn’t! Listen, the diaphragm and other breathing muscles are certainly involved when we sing, but they need to make so many tiny adjustments every second we sing that you can’t possibly guide them consciously. Thank goodness we don’t have to.

Here’s the deal. For most of us, the best damn breathing we ever did was on the day we were born. That’s right! You and I were brand-spanking-new breathing machines. At one day old, your breathing adjusted perfectly to support all your needs. Pressure was created to cry out, breath-flow was stopped to swallow or burp and big yawns were created to clean the lungs of carbon dioxide. It was nothing short of a miracle. Unfortunately, since that day we’ve been messing with it. Now, what we think of as normal breathing isn’t always very natural. Emotions, physical conditions and personality traits can easily take over. As an extension of this, your voice will sound weak and shaky if your breathing has become shallow or restricted over the years. Or your voice may be blaring loud and blow out often if you’re the kind of person that takes huge breaths and then drives your voice every time you speak. Balance is the key to controlling any physical event. And with singing, that means balancing every sound with just the right amount of air.

Just think of your legs and feet. All day long they “support” your body. Does that mean they are always tight? Locked up and rigid? Of course not. What they do is shift around a lot. Even when standing military straight, your feet are still making minute adjustments. Stand on one leg and you’ll really notice a lot of adjusting. So who’s telling your foot to make all those little moves in order to keep you upright? Well, you are. And all you have to do is give it a single command. That same kind of single thought is all that’s necessary when you sing – if you trust your reflexes. Breathing and vocal muscles will all respond in coordination to make whatever sound you want. All you have to do is get out of your own way. That’s the difference between those who sing so easily and naturally and those that struggle. All training does is set you up with reflexes that are trustworthy. That’s what practicing is all about. And you’ll get more out of each exercise if you stay focused on the sound that’s coming out of your mouth.