Be aware of your posture and alignment while singing; there’s a better chance that the breath will flow –says Joan Lader.
I don’t actually teach my voice students how to breathe.
I do, however, speak about anatomy and physiology with regard to inhalation and exhalation.
Recently, I worked with a dancer/actress who had been diagnosed with a pseudocyst (a non-cancerous bump on the vocal cords which interferes with efficient voice production).
She is rehearsing a play in which she had to yell. On top of that, she reported that she was suffering from an upper respiratory infection at the same time!
Wrong Alignment Can Lead To Vocal Injury
Upon evaluation, it was apparent that she increased the intensity of her voice by thrusting her head forward.
In that position, the Scalenes (muscles in the neck), become very tight.
Her posture for this high intensity vocalization was typical of many dancers. As a result, the first and seconds ribs were tight as well as the abdominals and diaphragm, thereby upsetting her breathing and “support”.
Resetting Alignment for Vocal Recovery
She required vocal surgery, and worked with me to rehabilitate her voice.
I worked with an osteopath, as well as doing my own manual therapy which involved laryngeal re-posturing, stretching and massage.
I worked with her on vocal exercises designed to strengthen and balance the laryngeal musculature following surgery.
It’s interesting to note that my student reported that her husband often commented on her forward head position and would often push her chin back!
The Body Knows What it is Doing
If I wanted to shout to get someone’s attention across the room, with the exclamation, “Hey!” I would anchor myself and assume a particular posture appropriate for initiating a “sense of call.”
I wouldn’t have to think about how much air to take in. The breath would follow the action.
Breathing is a dynamic system meaning it operates in a different manner for varying conditions.
For example, if you’re sitting down and reading a book or working at a computer, your breathing will be vastly different from if you are late and running to catch a bus!
Involuntary vs. Voluntary Breath Control
Breathing – as in both situations above – is usually governed by the involuntary nervous system.
During speaking and singing, however, breathing is also controlled by the voluntary nervous system.
Controlling exhalation during a long musical phrase, is an example of this.
When I worked with Jo Estill, she proposed the idea that “the breath must be allowed to adjust to what it meets on the way out.”
She was referring to the fact that as the breath travels out of you, it is affected by the shape and form of the mouth, neck and chest.
Different Shapes and Forms for Different Voice Qualities
Recipes for achieving the various tone qualities in classical singing, pop, R&B, folk singing and rap are quite different.
The sensations in the larynx, muscles surrounding the larynx, the feeling of openness in the throat and tongue position differ for these different sounds.
Furthermore, the work required and the places in the body where this effort should be localized, differs as well.
A good teacher who understands this physiology of various voice qualities can help you achieve the right alignment for the sound you want to produce.
For the past 33 years Joan Lader has been in private practice in New York City working with singers and actors with injured voices as well as training elite Broadway, Opera, Pop and Rock singers. She has been a frequent guest lecturer at Columbia University, The Voice Foundation in Philadelphia, The Pacific Voice Foundation in San Francisco, NYSTA, Berklee College of Music, and The Commercial Voice Conference at Vanderbilt University. Read More About Joan Lader.