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What’s Breath Got To Do With It?

Improve your tone and control with natural breath support –says Jeannie Deva

Many singers have been told through the years to “use good breath support.”

While we may instinctively want to agree with this statement, we may be confused by the many interpretations, opinions and approaches on the subject.

To sort this out, it will help to understand some simple essentials about how your vocal instrument actually works.

Let’s establish some basics.

Your body is your instrument and it has a certain way it needs to work to make the sounds of your voice.

The style of music you sing really doesn’t matter; that’s more on the level of how you play your instrument; how your body works to make sound remains the same.

When You Breathe In, Where Does the Air Go?

I’m sure you know that without a breath you can’t sing (or speak). So, one element of importance is the intake of breath.

But how?

Have you ever been told to push your belly forward when you breathe in? Or, that air goes into your diaphragm or stomach when you inhale?

From an anatomical reality, no air goes into your diaphragm (which is a muscle) nor does it go into your belly (which is filled with other types of organs such as intestines).

Air goes into your lungs.

OK, you knew that.

But did you know that the biggest part of your lungs is in your back?

The tops of your lungs are just below shoulder level. They fill your chest, front to back. In front, they only extend down about four inches. But in back, they extend down to a few inches above your waist.

For many, this is a total surprise. When you breathe in, most of the air goes into your back!

Breathe Into Your Back

To permit your body to work naturally and breathe the way it’s designed; allow your ribs to open as you inhale.

Your rib cage, by moving, pulls open your lungs and that pulls in your breath.

The joints that permit movement of your ribs are in your spine. And the strongest muscles that help move the ribs are in your back as well. (Makes sense, right?)

So if your posture is at least basically OK, this movement can happen more easily.

Try this:

Place your hands on both sides of your body about two to three inches above your waist. Recognizing that air will go into your lungs primarily in your back, inhale and feel your ribs expand. Now exhale. Again inhale so you can feel your ribs open and the air come into your back. Now sing something. You should notice an immediate improvement in your vocal tone and a greater ease in singing. This is just the beginning of natural “breathe support.” For more detail check out my Contemporary Vocalist Volume One (see below).

My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids

Louie Ongpauco – Rhythm of Love (cover)

This was a fun video: I love how you gave us a double view of yourself recording your tracks and then gave us a room filled with many Louies singing the chorus—very cool. You have a nice vocal quality and you made a good choice in selecting this song to cover. Your pitch was a bit shaky; the recording affects helped to obscure this to some extent. Developing a steady pitch as you sing your words is the area I would urge you to work on. For some tips on this achievement, check out my Voice Council article: Resolving Pitch or Range Difficulties.

SPIRITWO – Mistakes (original)

You committed to your song, your message and performance. Also, you took risks on stage – I think that’s critical to do if we are going to find our unique voice and stand apart from the crowd. I would have liked the videographer to have zoomed out a little to give us even more of the full impact of your presentation. Since you’re singing aggressively which can potentially tax the voice, there’s one simple thing you can do (or perhaps do more of) that will better support and sustain this degree of intensity. See my article (above) for details and best wishes for continued success in your career!

-Jeannie Deva

Jeannie is teaching students at her new interactive Online Vocal School by ArtistWorks. Students canaccess to her entire vocal method in HD streaming video, submit videos of their practice and get personalized video feedback from Jeannie. To learn more, click here.

© 2011 All Rights Reserved. This article is adapted for VoiceCouncil Magazine from Jeannie Deva’s book: “The Contemporary Vocalist.”

Late Breaking News: Jeannie’s eBook “Singer’s Guide to Powerful Performances” has just been released and is immediately available at: www.JeannieDeva.com It includes hundreds of linked video examples and an interactive table of contents and linked pages for easy navigation, 228 pages, 23 information-packed chapters, 55 innovative exercises and numerous practice and application tips to help you excel as a singer. For a few of the video exercises available, go to: www.YouTube.com/PowerfulPerformances and subscribe for updates. Follow @JeannieDeva

Jeannie Deva is a celebrity voice and performance coach and recording studio vocal specialist with a list of impressive clients and endorsements. Jeannie teaches privately in Los Angeles and in the very near future to students worldwide via her Online Vocal Academy. Visit her new singer’s performance development channel: www.YouTube.com/PowerfulPerformances and her voice enhancement for vocalists: The Contemporary Vocalist Book and CD series and The Deva Method® Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs CD. www.JeannieDeva.com www.Facebook.com/JeannieDevawww.Twitter.com/JeannieDeva

See Jeannie Deva’s Contemporary Vocalist Volume One.