Breathing for singing

(and other things that are overstressed by singing teachers)

Many of my new students look at me in surprise when I tell them “ I am not going to teach you how to breathe..you already know how!”.  These students are under the misconception that vocal study must include hours and hours of ‘breathing study’ and learning how to ‘sing from their diaphragm’.

First of all, let’s look at the diaphragm and why you can’t actually sing from it.

It’s an involuntary muscle.  You can’t control it.  Since there are no nerve endings in the diaphragm, you cannot feel it, and therefore, you cannot control it.

When you breathe ( which you MUST do to stay alive!) your diaphragm does it’s job on it’s own by moving downward and laterally (outward) which causes the rib cage to expand to accommodate the lungs as they expand.

This happens every time we breathe

Yes, we do need as singers at times, to take a breath that is not centered in the chest, and be conscious of the ribs expanding and centering the breath in more of an abdominal area,

To become aware of the rib expansion, I give my students a very simple exercise where they hold their hands around their midsection, and expand their ribs by taking a breath.  I then have them release the breath on a hissing sound “ssss”.

Doing this exercise will make the singer more conscious of rib expansion, but it will not help them breathe.  They do that all on their own!

If you can speak long sentences without thinking about breathing, you can sing without thinking about breathing.  And frankly, the more a singer things about breathing while they are singing, the more that process interferes with the singing itself!

The best ‘breathing’ exercise is the act of singing itself!

When you are phonate  (make sound) your vocal folds will open and close, which in turn, is a breathing exercise.

Vocal production happens at the vocal fold level.   Vocal training is all about negotiation and coordination at the vocal fold level.   With good technique at the vocal fold level, the breathing will take care of itself.

A vocal instructor such as myself will design vocal exercises to address the issues that singers have.  With repetitive vocalizing and regular study with a good teacher, the technique will solidify and stay in muscle memory.

So keep singing and let the breathing take care of itself!

Breathing for singing2019-08-15T17:29:07-08:00

Belting and Mixed Belting Singing Techniques

Singing Techniques – To belt or not to belt, that is the question!

At least it’s the question that I hear often from students working on songs. “Should I do a straight belt or a mixed belt?”

Belting sometimes has a bad rap from the classical singing crowd,  and much controversy surrounding the technique.  Let’s take a look at what belting is in singing, what it isn’t, and how best to approach it when in doubt

What is belting?

Vocal belting is a singing technique where a singer brings their chest voice or register above its natural break (or passaggio) at a loud volume with intensity.  Singers such as Adele and Christina Aguilera are examples of pop singers who consistently ‘belt it out’.  Both of these singers have had vocal damage, possibly due to the intense pressure on their vocal folds from this type of singing, which is not uncommon in pop and rock singing.

Belting is a necessary tool to have in Musical Theater, but not all belting is ‘straight belting’.

Singers who have to endure 8 shows a week need strong technique and tools to belt without damaging their voices.  This is where the ‘mixed belt’ comes into play.

What is a mixed belt?

Mixed voice, mixes elements of chest voice and head mix.  The stronger you get in your mixed voice, the more power you can add to that mix.  The more power you add to your mix, the more that mix can sound like a belt!

Mix belt is a combination of registers used at the same time, with a good amount of forward resonance, to amplify the sound. Vowel modification, vocal tract shaping, good breath support and moderate cord closure are the keys to achieving a  belt and a mixed belt.

Ariana Grande is a good example of a pop singer who can mix-belt in her upper range: