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kickingtone

Breathing: Singing vs Sport

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I came across a very interesting discussion about whether "athleticism" can give somebody a head start when training as a vocalist. The main idea was that the core abdominal strength needed for breath control could be ready developed.

Although the question itself was too broadly phrased, imo, for the replies to be conducive to much of a consensus, it did provide a means by which people could describe and compare breath control systems. (The discussion was on reddit).

I think that "athleticism" is too broad a qualification. A weightlifter, for example, has to brace his abs, and even wear a belt. It seems clear to me that breathing technique in such a sport would not carry over to singing. However, people involved in other athletic activities also claimed that the breathing techniques involved may actually have hindered, not helped them, with breath support in singing. Some people even seemed to be suggesting that you lose the six pack, if you have one, and start rocking that potbelly!

I see a lot of crossover between breathing for running and breathing for singing. Both involve filling the lungs from bottom to top. Both require the abs to make room for the descent of the diaphragm. Both involve efficient exhalation phase, so as not to recycle used air.. Both work the abs. The main difference I see is in the movement of the rib cage. With running, the movement of the rib cage is very active and preemptive. With singing, the rib cage moves more in response to the air pressure in the lungs, so it always applying light pressure on the lungs.

(With running, the rib cage is actively pulling the lungs out in the inhalation phase, and bearing down considerably during the exhalation phase. With singing the rib cage is more or less "tracking" the lung expansion). That's my own experience. But some of the descriptions I read about breathing for running, i found quite odd, and could account for why some people felt that the abdominal strength gained there was not applicable to singing..

 

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It seems that you get conflicting views on breath support and singing. People tend to gauge whether you are using good or bad support from the sound emitted. If you have a good tone you have good support, if you are sounding weak or running out of breath, you have bad support.

   The most common description for breathing for singing is to breath from the bottom up. Expand the lower ribs(back, sides, and front) as if pushing against a belt. Keep the ribs expanded while singing. For some reason, instead of the idea of keeping the ribs expanded, the idea  is conveyed by saying "do not let the ribs collapse". But to me this sounds passive instead of the conscious act and action of "KEEPING THE RIBS EXPANDED".

   Some speak of "Belly breathing" some say "Diaphragmatic Breathing" But the idea is really to breath in by expanding the bottom ribs and to exhale without letting the ribs return to resting position. The problem with the idea of belly breathing is that you can expand and relax the belly without taking in breath and without the bottom ribs expanding, losing the effect it was supposed to give...expanding the ribs and keeping the diaphragm taught and flat by the action of keeping the ribs  expanded. At this point the breath is controlled  and regulated by movement of the abdomen and the approximation of the vocal folds.

   If you keep the ribs expanded, during long phrases when you are Running out of breath you can get a quick breath by simply relaxing the abdomen. The air will be quickly sucked into the lungs for you to finish singing the phrase.

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2 hours ago, MDEW said:

   The most common description for breathing for singing is to breath from the bottom up. Expand the lower ribs(back, sides, and front) as if pushing against a belt. Keep the ribs expanded while singing. For some reason, instead of the idea of keeping the ribs expanded, the idea  is conveyed by saying "do not let the ribs collapse". But to me this sounds passive instead of the conscious act and action of "KEEPING THE RIBS EXPANDED".

The way I see it is that there are two basic things going on. As you sing a phrase, or set of phrases between inhales, the volume of air in the lungs is gradually decreasing. The air pressure required is also changing rapidly, as you sing different notes, vowels and consonants.

The rib cage is far too clunky and unwieldy to manage the pressure variations, but it should relax gradually to accommodate the reduced volume of air in the lungs. So, I see the rib cage as bearing down gently and shifting in response to the change in volume. That is what I understand by "not collapsing".

On the other hand, the diaphragm has to move to create the rapid pressure changes that actually allow you to sing, and not just exhale.

So, yes, you would first have to find the right amount of rib expansion. but also control the relaxation of the ribs as you exhale, so that it is not a collapse.

 

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The abdomen(belly) is where the movement comes in first. After you can not get enough pressure from the belly moving in then the ribs slowly return to resting position. But you will find that most phrases are short enough that the ribs are not needed to add pressure on the lungs.  

   The quick breath I wrote about is used in long phrases when you do not have enough time to take a proper breath.

   The next time you Cough or sneeze pay attention to your abdomen, ribs and the feeling of the internal movement.  Your ribs expand, they are held in place while the belly moves in and up and pushes the air out. This is the same movement as when singing only the internal movement of the belly is controlled. But the muscles move in the same way.

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4 minutes ago, MDEW said:

The abdomen(belly) is where the movement comes in first. After you can not get enough pressure from the belly moving in then the ribs slowly return to resting position. But you will find that most phrases are short enough that the ribs are not needed to add pressure on the lungs.

Nonetheless, the ribs can take in the slack. All they need to do is remain in a comfortable position relative to the volume of air in the lungs. There is no particular reason not to move the rib cage. It shouldn't be slumped, but movement is ok.

8 minutes ago, MDEW said:

 The next time you Cough or sneeze pay attention to your abdomen, ribs and the feeling of the internal movement.  Your ribs expand, they are held in place while the belly moves in and up and pushes the air out. This is the same movement as when singing only the internal movement of the belly is controlled. But the muscles move in the same way.

Actually, for me the opposite happens. For a sneeze, I breath in from the bottom of the lungs, diaphragm descends, belly expands, abs tense, then rib cage expands. Then, for the exhale, the abs relax momentarily, but are immediate pushed out again as the rib cage bears down and the diaphragm absorbs the pressure. For me, at no point does the belly move in and up.

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    I am more familiar with a cough. Perhaps there is  difference in the set up between a sneeze and a cough. The sneeze has an open glottis where the cough uses the closed glottis to build more pressure.

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Again, for a cough, belly kicks out, for me, not in. It is more braced than for a sneeze, but it kicks out. The cough is more violent, and less of the pressure is absorbed by the diaphragm, but, other than that, it's basically the same.

 

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It still seems to me a contraction of the muscles in and around the abdomen pushing up against the diaphragm with an expansion of the ribs rather than a squeeze of the ribs. Perhaps that is just what I conditioned myself to do.

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7 hours ago, MDEW said:

I found this article to give a better description of what I was trying to say.

https://thechurchcollective.com/breathing-and-breath-support/

"While the diaphragm is part of the breathing process, it is an involuntary muscle which acts as a horizontal “wall” between your lungs and your “guts” and basically just “goes along for the ride”. There are other muscles which you actually have control over that must be engaged for the diaphragm to do it’s job.  This happens beautifully when you yawn.  Yawning causes the muscles that control the diaphragm to relax and expand, causing the diaphragm to lower and allow for a proper inhale.  This is why it seems that you are able to breathe deeper when yawning, than with normal breathing."

This is totally wrong. The diaphragm is voluntary in one direction (inhale) and involuntary in the other direction (exhale).

You have diaphragmatic control over both inhale and exhale. Your diaphragm can "force" the inhale, because it lowers voluntarily, and the same force  can voluntarily suspend or reduce the exhale as the diaphragm raises involuntarily. What it cannot do is accelerate the exhale.

"Inhaling is an act of relaxing and stretching, not contracting.  How many of us have taken a deep breath, only to heave our bodies feel like we’re contracting every muscle in our core? When we finally let go of the breath, it feels like we’re relaxing everything.  This is the exact opposite of how proper breathing should feel.  Contracting your muscles is what you do to exhale. If done properly, it will be a completely different set of muscles than what you’re used to using."

This is also wrong. If you relax everything, you will exhale. When you inhale, your muscles MUST contract. When you exhale, it can be forced (involving muscle contraction) or passive (not requiring any essential contraction).

That is just a couple of things. Poor article, in my opinion.

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I looked for the description of the action I was referring to, and did not pay attention to  their idea of how the breathing works.  This is a choir  director writing for church members.

4 hours ago, kickingtone said:

"Inhaling is an act of relaxing and stretching, not contracting.  How many of us have taken a deep breath, only to heave our bodies feel like we’re contracting every muscle in our core?

I agree that this is wrong. I believe he is referring to when some people purposely take a deep breath. Normally the breath function is under autonomic control. "Relaxing" for the inhale is allowing the body to refill a vacuum in the lungs created by the exhale. .

Left on its own, breathing is creating a vacuum in the lungs and refilling  the empty space. So with relaxed muscles after an exhale the air will automatically refill the lungs which will expand the diaphragm and the ribs beyond their "Resting" position as they return to resting position the air is again forced out of the lungs, creating a vacuum and the process repeats.

      We can "take control" of this process to a certain extent by using muscles that we do have conscious control over. The idea is to ensure enough air in the lungs and control the exhale.

      The reason for expanding the lower ribs and KEEPING them expanded is to slow the release of breath.

I do not agree with every detail in that article, but there is enough to get the idea.  I made a few edits in here.

"3. When you inhale, it should feel as though air is going “down” into our belly rather than “out” in our ribs (edit: upper ribs).  The lungs are enclosed by ribs on all sides except the bottom.  At the bottom of the lungs is our flexible diaphragm muscle(EDIT: and floating ribs), and the way to get the diaphragm to lower and allow the lungs to fill is to stretch and relax the abdominal muscles, as well as expand and spread the muscles of your mid and lower back(Edit: this happens due to the floating ribs).  When we do those things, our internal organs spread out, which in turn allows our diaphragm to lower.  When our diaphragm lowers, our lungs expand with air. The process of spreading the back is especially important for pregnant women whose abdominal muscles are already stretched to the max.  The trick is teaching your body to recognize and repeat the involuntary muscle movements in yawning and commit them to muscle memory.  This takes time, practice and patience, however.  Your lungs and diaphragm muscles are just like every other muscle, they need to be trained and maintained.

4. There should always be a constant feeling of tension (Edit: Outward tension) on the sides of your rib cage,  under your arms and upper back.  This acts a “lifter” of your ribcage and creates a greater lung capacity as well as a rigid core for both inhalation and exhalation.  I tell people to feel as though they are squeezing tennis balls under their armpits, pushing the ribs out toward the arms more than the arms pushing into the ribs.  If you’re keeping the ribs lifted this way and using your abs as your energy source, the chest will/should never heave while inhaling.  While it may look or feel silly to you, (Edit: I do not agree with this next part) "inhaling by lowering the diaphragm will cause your tummy to expand, and give the appearance of a “pop belly.”  Do not fret, this is the effect you are trying to achieve!" (If you expand your lower ribs and bring the lower abs in, you will expand from side to side. No "Pop Belly".)  Your organs expanding outward creates a space for your lungs to fill up for a deeper breath.  For women who are pregnant, this will be difficult because of the baby already causing your organs to squish together.  Forcing deeper breaths will be uncomfortable, so it will be best to maintain shorter breaths and at shorter intervals.

5. After stretching the abdominal and back muscles to inhale, you’ll need to exhale or create vocal tone. When doing so, contract the abdominal muscles from the bottom up.  The feeling you’re going to want to achieve is as though you’re rolling your abs inward and upward. Essentially, you’re performing a minor Heimlich Maneuver, but only using your muscles to perform the action.  This contracting puts pressure on your internal organs, which in turn puts pressure on the diaphragm and causes compression on your lungs.  This puts pressure on your lungs and causes expiration.  This compression of the lungs and expiration of air is what allows the voice to stay relaxed and free while creating vocal tone.  Once you’ve contracted your abs to the point of feeling like they will touch your spine, release and relax them quickly for the next breath.  How many times have you been singing a fast song where there is virtually no place to breathe and the spots there are to breathe are so fast, you can’t get a deep breath?  This technique will help achieve quick breaths that are deep and full, but it will take time to train the muscles to tense and release quickly since the abs are not the most agile muscles.

6. While singing, always inhale through your mouth.  Open your mouth and throat as wide as possible so that air can pass as quickly as possible into your lungs.  Do not inhale through your nose only!   This won’t allow air to refill the lungs fast enough between phrases, and you’ll run out of breath quickly.  You should feel as though you’re drinking air back into your body, or rapidly filling a balloon in your tummy(Edit: Lower ribs).

7. While singing, never try to conserve air thinking it will allow you to sing longer phrases.  This reason sounds valid, but has the opposite effect psychologically.  The more you try to hold air in, the more tense your body becomes and the more air that gets trapped inside your lungs.  You will become very short of breath if you keep this up for too long.  If you have it, get rid of it! "

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50 minutes ago, MDEW said:

Left on its own, breathing is creating a vacuum in the lungs and refilling  the empty space. So with relaxed muscles after an exhale the air will automatically refill the lungs which will expand the diaphragm and the ribs beyond their "Resting" position as they return to resting position the air is again forced out of the lungs, creating a vacuum and the process repeats.

You cannot create a vacuum by forcing the air out of the lungs during the exhale phase. Air is forced out because the volume of the lungs is reduced, as the diaphragm relaxes back up, and the rib cage moves back in.

It is when you inhale by moving the diaphragm back down and the rib cage out that you increase the volume of the lungs, lowering the pressure ("creating a vacuum") and causing air to rush into the lungs. The action sucks air in. The air does not expand the diaphragm or ribs during inhalation.

What we are calling relaxation may also be different. But, in terms of what the muscles are doing, rather than how it feels, relaxation squeezes air out the lungs because of the involuntary doming upward of the diaphragm, and the weight of the rib cage bearing down. There is no "vacuum" at this point. There is a volume decrease, instead.

I think that there are two levels of "involuntary" being discussed, as well. The muscles involved can act involuntarily (which doesn't necessarily mean that they are involuntary muscles). Many of them can be brought under conscious voluntary control. The muscles that cause the diaphragm to dome upwards cannot be brought under conscious control (according to current research -- and those muscles are involuntary), leaving control of the diaphragm to other muscles, including those in the diaphragm that lower it, or can be used during singing to counteract its doming.

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31 minutes ago, kickingtone said:

You cannot create a vacuum by forcing the air out of the lungs during the exhale phase. Air is forced out because the volume of the lungs is reduced, as the diaphragm relaxes back up, and the rib cage moves back in.

It is when you inhale by moving the diaphragm back down and the rib cage out that you increase the volume of the lungs, lowering the pressure ("creating a vacuum") and causing air to rush into the lungs. The action sucks air in. The air does not expand the diaphragm or ribs during inhalation.

What we are calling relaxation may also be different. But, in terms of what the muscles are doing, rather than how it feels, relaxation squeezes air out the lungs because of the involuntary doming upward of the diaphragm, and the weight of the rib cage bearing down. There is no "vacuum" at this point. There is a volume decrease, instead.

I think that there are two levels of "involuntary" being discussed, as well. The muscles involved can act involuntarily (which doesn't necessarily mean that they are involuntary muscles). Many of them can be brought under conscious voluntary control. The muscles that cause the diaphragm to dome upwards cannot be brought under conscious control (according to current research -- and those muscles are involuntary), leaving control of the diaph

ragm to other muscles, including those in the diaphragm that lower it, or can be used during singing to counteract its doming.

At this point we are both saying the same thing in different ways. The lungs are ALSO like a desoldering bulb or an earwax remover Squeeze the air out and let go of the bulb they will suck the air back in.

55 minutes ago, kickingtone said:

The muscles that cause the diaphragm to dome upwards cannot be brought under conscious control (according to current research -- and those muscles are involuntary), leaving control of the diaphragm to other muscles, including those in the diaphragm that lower it, or can be used during singing to counteract its doming.

The expanded lower ribs along with the back muscles and intercostal  muscles are used to slow the upward doming of the diaphragm.

 

 

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3 hours ago, kickingtone said:

You cannot create a vacuum by forcing the air out of the lungs during the exhale phase.

One of the exercises I do most days is exhale as much air out as possible (vacuum) and holding my breath for as long as I can

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1 hour ago, singing squirrel said:

One of the exercises I do most days is exhale as much air out as possible (vacuum) and holding my breath for as long as I can

That's not a vacuum.

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and doseint our singing squirel look so beautiful and elegant in his new cloths

 

i was wearing muffins at the time

You are a muffin!

He should try taking them off and listing to what people are telling him

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