We are often told that if we want more volume in our singing and speaking we need to use more breath. We're also told that if we want LESS volume we need to use more breath! We also hear this when we're out of tune, inconsistent the list goes on and on! Use more breath is somehow the go-to solution for just about any problem. But, does it really work? And if so, are we really doing what we think we are doing?
Here's the issue with the use more breath strategy:
1. We cannot look at the function of breathing without looking at the entire respiratory system which includes the larynx and vocal tract!
2. Research shows that the brain does not send the signal to the breath then the larynx during vocalizing. The breath actually gets the signal secondarily from laryngeal neurons NOT the other way around (see Titze)!!
3. Too much breath pressure beneath the vocal folds builds up and can actually cause vocal fold trauma by forcing them to work too hard to resist that pressure when they need to be loose enough to vibrate quickly, easily and freely!
What you can do:
1. If you're used to taking a big breath before singing or speaking, take in how ever much breath you normally would then EXHALE before starting the tone. See if singing/speaking is easier with less air. Next time, just take that much!
2. Once you have taken in an appropriate amount of air (not too much, not too little) make sure that your belly is soft and that you're not pushing from below! This pushing will also increase the pressure beneath your vocal folds and make things difficult. To monitor, you can rest your hand between your belly button and the bottom of your sternum (the epigastrum) and make sure this area stays soft and boingy beneath your hand!
Unfortunately, all of this breath and vocal fold tension gets confused with support! I'll clarify this distinction in How to Avoid Vocal Fold Trauma stay tuned!