Just Breathe, and Keep on Breathing
Focus Topic: February Edition
Greetings, and happy February! This month all of my content will focus on the concept of breathing as a singer. It may have seemed like I started teaching about breathing in January, but that was meant all to emphasize your body alignment. If I haven’t persuaded you yet about how important that is, well, you’re about to find out this month as we learn about breathing. I’m going to talk quite a bit about inhaling and exhaling. I want to encourage you to breathe. In the words of a highly respected instructor in the classical singing realm, “breath is the essence of life”. Speech is a sign of life but breath is the essence. The latter is a necessity to the former. In this regard, I will talk about how to breathe for singing and how to activate, engage, and support (known as the s-word in certain vocal instruction circles, I’ll explain when necessary), as well as what muscles are used and sensations, are experienced when we go through my lessons this month. All the exercises will be focused on one week at a time, as described in the following paragraphs.
Week one I will help learn to access your breath. Gain a sense of connection to your breath within your body. Obtain the feeling of the breath as your anchor or support system and the connection to your body as that which supports you as you speak or sing. As mentioned before, “breath is the essence of life” and speech is a sign of life. I occasionally use certain imagery in private lessons to help singers find a sense of anchoring, support, and stability. The image I usually use is that you are a tree and your feet are your roots. Imagine rooting your feet into the ground where you are standing. Then imagine your body as the trunk of the tree. As you breathe you should have a sense of awareness through your feet and legs and pelvic floor (muscles engaged in a cough or a sneeze), even as you produce speech or song. That is what it feels like to use breath support and feel anchored and stable. Exercises that I use during the first week will be geared toward this idea of finding your anchor and sense of stability while singing.
Week two I will focus on how to use your breath. Once you access your anchored feeling and have a sense of stability, you can use the connection of your breath to your body to then utter a sentence or two while listening to your voice. Pay attention to how you feel your breath moving through your body before and while speaking. Then start singing whatever music you are working on with the same observation. Exercises I use during week two will direct you in progressing the sense of stability into sustained breath flow on a consistent and easy voice stream. You should feel like your speech is an extension of your breath, and your singing is an extension of your speech.
Week three I will encourage you to stay connected to your breath when you sing. It is essential to maintain the anchored and stable feeling that I described in week one. Maintaining the sense of stability in your breath-to-body connection will enable you to sing with a connected tone in your voice. It will help you to sing with a feeling of effortlessness, and therefore sing or speak longer without tiring out. The flow of your breath is carrying your sound for you. Vocal fry and weariness are caused by overworking. One common cause of overworking is simply not accessing and stabilizing breath flow as needed to connect your voice.
Week four I will teach you about how to reconnect your voice to your breath when it starts to disconnect. In January I said that you can’t sing if you can’t breathe. That truth extends to say you cannot sing healthfully if you disconnect from your breath flow. Many singers of popular style music focus on the sound they make rather than how it is produced. That is not a healthy path to go down. The sound-focused path (or many times mimicking another’s sound) quickly leads to disconnected voices and eventually vocal polyps and nodes on the vocal cords that have to be surgically removed. The best way to avoid that is to learn healthy habits that connect your breath and voice. I will present some of these to you in the tutorial Tuesday video for week four. (Side note: In the Wednesday warm-up video I will offer up another song choice to present for you on this topic.) Prepare to master staying connected!
Instead of a sound-focused path, I offer you to come with me down the path of focused sound which emphasizes the flow of the breath. If you can keep your voice connected to your breath, you will be healthy as a singer. If you don’t, you will likely end up with vocal damage due to harshness on your vocal cords. So join me on my journey to vocal health. Let’s practice all of these exercises together so we can grow together. This is my 2020 process and I hope to inspire you. I guarantee you it will not happen all at once. Daily practice and time investment is required. On this journey, I am aiming for vocal GROWTH. Vocal health is inevitable for a growing voice but is not the end all be all. The mindset of having vocal health in the popular music culture I commonly hear about is very limiting and bare minimum. If you are growing, then you are healthy. The latter is essential to the former.
As always, to access my content, visit Free Your Voice channel on YouTube and follow my IG account @letmeefreeyourvoice and like my Facebook page Hannah Fabean @letmefreeyourvoice. In other news, I have a website on the way, and a new email linking to that website. You can email me your questions at email@example.com.