Rachel Bennett probes the lack of vocal power in an aspiring singer
The Case: Poor connection to the breath
The Singer: Pauline, 22 years old, a singer with a light and compelling timbre attending workshops and beginning to sing publically in low- pressure situations – open mics and family weddings.
Case Summary: Pauline had a naturally sweet voice with a beautiful fast vibrato. She felt as if her voice was trapped as if she was unable to release.
Fast Escaping Breath
Pauline sang with a light and very sweet timbre – a little breathy but a quality that I sensed she might choose to retain. She had a feeling of tightness or being trapped in her whole throat after a few phrases of song.
Pauline thought she simply had no power in her voice but I established that this was not the case. She was simply unable to support her breath because of a lack of awareness of the muscles required to make this happen. Clearly she needed to make a better connection with her intercostal (rib) and abdomen muscles so that she could balance her sound better on adduction.
She found it difficult to multi task or consider too many instructions so I felt it best to suggest an exercise that she would be able to do easily without much fuss
Sitting Down to the Task
Pauline sat on a straight-backed chair and I placed a book under her feet so as to get a good contact between the soles of her feet and a solid base. I made sure Pauline maintained a long neck and relaxed shoulders.
I asked her to gently press her soles into the base and feel the tension travel up her legs into her buttocks and then to the rib cage at the back – this is where the tension should stop travelling as she lightly pushed her middle back into the chair.
We then set up a rhythm! Pauline inhaled into a relaxed body; on exhalation I counted to a clear beat as she released her breath on ‘oh’ shape on the lips with her ‘foot press’ action; as soon as her exhalation was complete she relaxed, inhaled immediately and repeated the exercise; at first she got to 6 beats but it soon increased to 9 and 12!
Freedom to Sing
Pauline practiced at home, on the bus, at work at her desk and because she was relatively young her muscle memory caught on quickly and she was soon feeling a much better connection to her rib cage and its relationship to the deeper part of her lungs.
Gradually the tightness reduced and she increased her sense of freedom and release in song
A breathy tone can be very beautiful but it is very important for a good balance between breath and the vocal cord action to make healthy sound.
The starting point has to be a good awareness of where to retain that breath without ‘conscious effort’ – this comes with an exercise that is separate from singing – just breathing!