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Seeking Clarification and Physical Sensations of Support

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Puissance
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Hi everyone,

I'm at another confusing roadblock with my singing... this time it's with support, which I thought that I always had since I can do ssssssssssss for a long time and can sing very loudly. However, I'm not sure if I'm grasping the concept correctly.

Is support simply controlling air flow or the ability to limit the amount of air on exhalation? And what are the physical sensations when achieving proper support? I hear a lot of "push" and "pushing" when coaches and singers talk about support, but this isn't about pushing air out right?

What are your thoughts?

Thanks!!

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Breath support - adequate air pressure at the folds but with slow escape velocity for the air coming out of the mouth.

S's and Z's will certainly help in metering air velocity but we don't sing on sibilants, we sing on vowels. So, with the sensation you feel in your lower back with the sibilants, turn around achieve that feeling while singing a vowel. But your onset may start with an m or ng because that will introduce proper fold closure. Without so much air velocity blowing through, your folds have a chance to adduct as much as they need to to create a good tone.

Another stumbling block is our own perception of what voice should sound like. I submit that high notes will sound different than low notes and not just because of the pitch value or frequency. It's because a low note has certain overtones with it that a resonated. And high notes can different overtones that resonate with that. So, if you are thinking your high notes sound subtley different than your low notes, or even quite different, there is a physical reason for it and trying to get the same overtones in tenor range that you might have achieved in mid baritone is going to introduce stress because of trying to achieve what physically cannot happen. Just had to get that out.

A high note may require a slight increase in air pressure over a low, soft note at soft volume. But the air speed coming out should actually be less than how most people speak. When the air speed is lowered but the air pressure is maintained, this is why a person can hold a 20 second note at high pitch. Well, the push I think is a mnemonic to describe the feeling in the abdominals. When you physically push an object, your stomach and back muscles engage. Bruce Dickinson knows when he is achieving training in rehearsals after a break because his stomach muscles are tired. Because that is where the control is, the breath, not the throat.

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Hi,

I dislike the word support. it conjures up a "to lean on", "to bear weight" analogy and is used a lot by coaches in order to get you to breath according to vowel to give good tone or misused in order to generate breathing for 90 seconds on an s, or shouting / volume up. Not that the word is mis-used - just not understood.

I prefer "breath management", because as well as breath it includes resonance, balancing of neck, trunk, abdominal wall and controlling all this so that not one upsets the whole. It should be more explanatory so you feel pectoral, gastric, umbilical and diaphram control. This and using breath correctly according to phrase .. So it's not about volume, or length of time you can sing a vowel, it's the use of "all the above" for the phrase to be sung. ... In Millers work I refer to Appoggio, google it and research it.

Ronws put this in his post;

Bruce Dickinson knows when he is achieving training in rehearsals after a break because his stomach muscles are tired. Because that is where the control is, the breath, not the throat.

and that's true - when you have a long phrase, you should feel the diaphram in action, you also have control over it in order to reach the end of the phrase.

To understand support - I ask people to do this - Just sing any long phrase from Schonberg's Bring Him Home (Les Mis.) , be it 4 bars or going to 6 bars and tell me you don't feel your diaphram.

So one one breath ..God on high (held for 6 counts) Hear my prayer (held for 6 counts), or later "bring him home (held for 6 counts), bring him home (held for 6 counts).

Place your hand on your navel and feel ... If you "at the moment" cannot make the end of the phrase - then you need coaching in this area in order to understand this "feeling". "Some" people will get possibly to 8 counts and then need to control the diaphram to use the remaining breath to the end of phrase - ... This is breath support ... . These are the sensations.

You ...actually... notice some singers (pro as well) place their hand on their umbilical region, it looks like it's part of the song, mostly it's to check and recheck their management.

in relation to pushing, if a coach ever tells you to "push", ask why there and then ... and if they don't give a satisfactory answer, walk away and find a new coach. They may be misdirected and actually mean something else, but if they mean push, PUSH .. hmmm (a bug bear of mine!!).

To push means to over try, be it volume, be it too much of a force of air, be it trying too hard (the most common). You normally see muscular constriction occur (neck, face and mouth), you see shoulders rise, you see the face and body move forward. I could go on and try to explain this better, but don't know if I'm getting my point across.

I will ask the question to you of... what is your problem, what is this roadblock ? . Is it in some songs you cannot make the end of the phrase ?, is it when you add volume - your breath doesn't last the phrase ?. Sing Bring him home and tell me your sensations. Possibly (like jonpall) post you singing it and let's listen.

Stew

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Excellent definition, Stew. Breath management, indeed. Changing that nomenclature alone will do wonders for re-aligning perspective to a more productive direction. Support sounds like you are lifting or pushing, like supporting the weight of a Thanksgiving turkey. As opposed to breath management, managing the air in the pressure and velocity that you need.

Excellent.

Rockonwhichyabadself.

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i agree with stew...breath management (and some, i know will disagree with this)and breath capacity is the foundation of good singing.

it's a metering of pressurized air and the control of exhalation. when the metering combines with the control you may feel what i describe as a sense of being tonally "suspended" and your ability to sing this way takes a lot of stress off the throat and neck so that you're freed up in that area which the main goal. it should never feel like a push unless you're doing a "power push" that jaime vendera describes but that's something else altogether.

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If a singer feels an intensification of upper body strength, or a sense of pressure just underneath the sternum, then they are experiencing what Meribeth Bunch/Dayme (Dynamics of the Singing Voice) calls "the illusion of support". In this instance, the ribs and shoulders are quite locked, and the throat and neck are stiff. It FEELS strong, but can significantly limit power and range. I have seen this used a lot in music theatre work, and some rock singing.

A classical singer would need much lower 'support', using abdominal muscles, counter-balanced by the downward force of the diaphragm while sing. The feeling is one of 'fullness' and a quiet, inner sense of groundedness. In this setup, typically the singer reports 'but I didn't have to do anything!'. In fact, the 'doing nothing' sensation is a description of how shoulders, throat, neck, tongue, jaw etc feel. The abdominal muscles are doing a lot!

For folk singing, jazz, and many styles - even including rock (and, for example, twang and rasp) which routinely would use a microphone, I have found that the deep abdominal breathing can work against the singer. It requires too much lowering of the larynx, and leads to the wrong kind of tonal quality for these genres. In fact, putting too much deep breath power through the throat in such styles could do a lot of harm. I think that microphone styles typically require less volume produced by the body itself, and this is safer for the voice given the sound qualities / timbres required. In this case, the perception of singer can be that not much breath support is required (in comparison to what a classical singer experiences.

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very interesting....for me, sometimes i feel like i could stop breathing, and sing a strong tone. i (nowadays) inhale very little to sing

Yes, we can exhale virtually all our air, and then still sing a clear tone. But it would not last very long.

Breath management is integral to a whole host of aspects of voice, including:

1. onset

2. note / phrase length (sustaining sound)

3. pitch range (especially achieving higher notes with fuller tone)

4. intensity and volume

5. tone / timbre

6. diction (fuller appoggio means that less 'work' is required in muscles of articulation to create clear vowels and consonants)

7. phrasing and expression (a complex, intuitive combination of all of the above)

So, as Stew says, it's all about breath 'management'. And, as I wrote earlier, I think 'support' or breath management are different physical processes, depending on the genre you are working in, though some basic principles apply across the board (not least in terms of preserving vocal health).

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When I'm singing at my best with a strong emphasis on head resonance I get the strangest breath sensation - its almost as if I'm drinking the air, inhaling with a downward motion that feels deep and extends to the lower part of my back. Throat and upper-body feel open and relaxed. There's certainly very little push going on, although I can add some lower abdominal tension to add a mild nasal rasp like quality if desired. It's a wonderful thing and I wish I could do it more often.

Been an interesting read so far, encouraging to see that my 'best' shares some similarity with advice posted. Being fairly new to singing techniques this is most welcome.

I'm curious to know what wiser folks think of stomach-tension while singing. As mentioned I can get a rasp out of it and it also seems focus energy to my lower back. No idea if this is a good idea or not as I've read so many conflicting accounts of the sensation of breath support. Perhaps it is different for all of us ? Hmm.

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S's and Z's

Studying phonetics atm at University, (went back to school to become an English high school teacher) - did you know that z is simply an s with a tone in it? They call it voiced and unvoiced, z being voiced and s being the exact same, but unvoiced.

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When I'm singing at my best with a strong emphasis on head resonance I get the strangest breath sensation - its almost as if I'm drinking the air, inhaling with a downward motion that feels deep and extends to the lower part of my back. Throat and upper-body feel open and relaxed. There's certainly very little push going on, although I can add some lower abdominal tension to add a mild nasal rasp like quality if desired. It's a wonderful thing and I wish I could do it more often.

Been an interesting read so far, encouraging to see that my 'best' shares some similarity with advice posted. Being fairly new to singing techniques this is most welcome.

I'm curious to know what wiser folks think of stomach-tension while singing. As mentioned I can get a rasp out of it and it also seems focus energy to my lower back. No idea if this is a good idea or not as I've read so many conflicting accounts of the sensation of breath support. Perhaps it is different for all of us ? Hmm.

Your first paragraph is a great description of the classic way classical singers used to be taught (when using imagery and metaphor). 'Drinking the sound' was a common instruction. When we breathe in, the diaphragm moves downwards, and muscles in the back help this. In classical singing (and associated appoggio / support ideas), these back muscles help the diaphragm sustain a downward counter-balance when the abdominals engage to start sending air out again. So, we are continuing to work the diaphragm as though continuing to inhale, whilst in fact phonating and therefore sending air outwards - hence, I suspect, your sense of 'drinking in air'.

I would prefer to think of stomach elasticity and muscularity rather than 'tension' as the latter might indicate some rigidity or 'lock'. Some singers don't get the flexibility needed in abdominal muscles. For practice purposes, bending your knees can help engage abdominals for breathing; if that is insufficient, slowly rotating your pelvis or even rocking it back and forth (belly dancer style) prevents abdominals locking, and gives the singer better access to them for deepening breath.

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Voicewisdom,

Excellent post(s) and details Breath management as per my known schools, you say, "classical singers used to be taught", would change to .. are still taught. The works of Reid, Miller et al. are still there and taught appropriately.

And for everyone reading this link, imagery, not only in breathing, but in the "whole" performance is important.

We want to see the you as a singer painting the song, we want to see / hear the colours, hear the dynamics and hear that ... free voice.

Interesting for you to list the points for breath management. On a teaching the Vowel .. We 'often' mention the vowel. We rarely mention (on forums) Pitch, Intensity and Vowel ... ;)

It's a +1 rep from me for your posts.

Stew

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