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Breathing questions

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MidiBro
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Hi, I have a strange vocal history. For years I sang unknowingly with a high larynx (low baritone emulating super high tenors) and even began to talk with a chronically raised larynx. This was painful and terrible but I have recently began using a singing program and have felt the amazing freedom of a neutral/lower larynx.

However, I've done some research and it seems that something I was also doing was controlling my breath pressure with my throat muscles and thus never properly learned diaphragmatic breathing. I thought I had it down when I just....pushed my stomach out and in but I guess there was more I wasn't doing.

Anyway, now I'm doing these breathing exercises where I have to breathe in as slowly for as long as I can and then hold it for five seconds. Here is my question to you folks who haven't had years of bad habits:

1 - When you are near maximum breath capacity, do you feel tension/stiffness in your throat? The veins in my throat pop out even when I'm full of air.

2 - When you are very full with breath and begin exhaling, do you feel a lot of pressure in your throat and neck? I feel like my throat is holding back the air as opposed to my diaphragm.

3 - When taking in a big, steady inhale to the point of maximum capacity, what happens in your abdomen? My belly first starts slowly expanding and then the abdominal muscles begin to compress/tighten and then it actually starts shrinking back in... I don't know where the air is going :/

4 - When you exhale slowly, at the last 20 percent or so of your lung capacity, does your throat tighten up?

I'm just worried if something is really wrong (like a weak diaphragm or something) or if its normal to feel these feelings. Aren't your core muscles supposed to be solely controlling the rate of breath escaping?

Thanks

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Sounds like you are breathing in way too much. Only take as much air as you need for the phrase you are singing. The diaphram is like a rubber band and wants to resist and push out the air. The other thing is you may be using too much compression in your throat to help resist the diaphram pushing the air out. If you are using optimal compression in the folds, you won't need as much air - you'll be able to sing a lot longer with the same amount of air. This further reduces the amount of air you need to breath in.

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First of all, I would suggest you learn diaphragmatic breathing immediately. Not because it is super important, but because it is so easy to do IMO that I just don't see any reason why you wouldn't. And you can practice it anytime anywhere. After a while it will finally become natural, and you'll hopefully you'll even notice it happen by itself every now and then in your daily life. You don't have to master it right away, but if you can just get the gist of it, you will be able to sing without having to think about breathing constantly. This is basically what you're looking for:

Inhale: Chest and shoulders stay fairly stationary, while the entire region below the diaphragm (located under the lungs, so we're talking abdomen, lower back, and lower sides) expands to allow the diaphragm to descend. Mostly the abdomen though, that's what you'll clearly see expanding. It's almost like a balloon inflating inside of you.

Exhale: In a normal, unsupported exhale, the region below the diaphragm will simply go back to its original position. In a supported exhale, which is what we want to use for difficult singing (e.g. long phrases, high notes), we create a resistance to the natural exhalation motion by forcing the position of inhalation on top of it, in order to slow down and control the breath stream at the source, instead of just at the vocal cords, which don't do anything to lessen the air pressure underneath them. Support can also be achieved by thinking of pressing down the lower torso, to keep the muscles surrounding the diaphragm from pushing it up too fast.

Okay now to answer your questions:

1. A little bit. I don't know if you can ever completely get rid of this, but I've found that you just really don't need THAT much air for singing. I've never noticed myself inhaling any more than what was comfortable. So the best way to prevent that is simply not breathe in so much air. But if you're taking in a normal full breath and the veins are popping, you might want to work on your breathing a bit more. That being said, some of my favorite female singers' necks get the popped veins look only when they inhale, so unless it's a gender thing, which I doubt, it's probably not a huge problem. As long as it doesn't hurt, you're fine. Some people's necks are just more veiny by nature, so don't be quick to judge your strain visually, judge it mostly by how it feels.

2. If the exhale is loud, then yes, the throat might be tensing. If you make it more silent that tension should release as a result.

3. Your accessory breathing muscles (for chest/clavicular breathing) are activating too quickly, so you need to work on diaphragmatic breathing only to fix that.

4. While singing, absolutely, though conscious addition of breath support can alleviate it. I wouldn't say last 20 percent though, maybe 5 or 10 percent. While just breathing, I don't think that happens with me. The exhale just stops once it's supposed to be done, and I allow myself to inhale again.

In general, you are not only breathing incorrectly, but you are making the process of breathing way more awkward and difficult than in needs to be. I think Enrico Caruso once said something like (paraphrasing) "I don't need any more air to sing than I need to carry on a casual conversation". Think about that. It's not entirely true, but it's pretty close, and something that can really be an eye-opener for amateur breathers. Especially for notes of typical duration within comfortable range, there is no need for any increase in the intensity of breathing.

Thank you for the response. I guess it must be a lifetime of poor breathing since even when I feel I am breathing solely with my diaphragm I still feel my neck muscles tighten up. I've only been practicing diaphragmatic breathing for a few days so hopefully I will be fixed soon.

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Thank you for the response. I guess it must be a lifetime of poor breathing since even when I feel I am breathing solely with my diaphragm I still feel my neck muscles tighten up. I've only been practicing diaphragmatic breathing for a few days so hopefully I will be fixed soon.

not sure if answer #4 should be happening at all. just my opinion.

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Hi, MidiBro.

Since you are looking to improve diaphragmatic breathing, look at the exercise I posted in another thread, at

http://themodernvocalist.punbb-hosting.com/viewtopic.php?id=2741.

Scroll down to post # 25.

I think it will help you release some of the neck and throat tensions you report, and help you on your way to using this beneficial kind of breathing.

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