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I'm such an idiot - Breathing and tension

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six20aus
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I could never figure out why all these unfit fatties on TV can sing like gods and I could never muster a sound that I was really HAPPY with. If singing is a 'physical' activity then how can they do it and I cannot ?

Watch your favourite rock band - the singer looks like he/she is in pain with the extreme physical demands of belting out each phrase aren't they ?

This has confused me forever and made me try harder and harder 'physically' to do 'more' to sing. And led me to constrict more and more.

The more my throat tensed up the more I thought I had to 'support' and squeeze/push/struggle. I stopped. Went back to simply exhaling all my air. Exhaled some more so that I was COMPLETELY empty of air. and then began to sing. Just as I did this my body naturally took the sneakiest of small inhalations and what I found was instant balance - no tensing in my throat - no sense of running out of air - no sense of needing to push or squeeze 'something'. Just a balanced easy tone that went wherever it needed to.

I have always known that my 'range' is not my issue because I could sing notes lower and higher than my last singing teacher. But still I missed something on the way to making a tone.

I think I still have this ingrained sense that singing must be so physically difficult that I must 'do' something really active and clearly I have just been getting in the way of what my body wants to do.

Things I am really working on now that have dramatically cut the amount of tension in my body that leads me to constriction -

1) I am really working on taking in only as much air as I actually need and it's probably about 20% of what I was taking in - go figure

2) Relaxed lips and jaw (I'm really working on curbing)

3) Relaxed volume - singing with earplugs or even just sticking your fingers in your ears leads to singing at a comfortable maintainable volume and you instantly zone in

I posted on the CVT forum ages ago about how I seem to sing better 'hung-over' and now I realise why - because my body was so tired it just wasn't able to take on huge volumes of air and my muscles could not tense up... clearly the answer for some of us is to do LESS to sing rather than trying to do more.

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Doing less is doing more is also a big theme with Mark Baxter. I suspect that overdoing, particularly with managing your diaphragm, is way more of a common culprit than not... for most people.

My main focus right now is just that. What I find is just about the time I think I'm getting close to that optimal balancing act with the least amount of effort and adapt to that new sensation, I find yet another recalibration a few notches lower with less effort.

To me it feels like when I am getting close to perfect balance, that my abdomen area is kind of pooched out and the air is almost in stasis.

Also, for me, I can physically feel the air pressure above and below my folds. Usually, when things get out of balance, I feel the sub glottal pressure greater than above the folds. Even small differences are becoming much more noticeable and gives me a clue I need more adjustments.

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Excellent observation, Six. A) what it looks like the singer is doing is not necessarily what he is doing. B) Some singers do have bad technique but function, anyway. And yes, you only have to inhale enough to sing the note or phrase you are intending to sing.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm not questioning what works for you, I would just like to get someones opinion as to why singing teachers tell their students to take in a really deep breath. All of my teachers have always told me to inhale fully.

MariFreakinA: Its the way they were taught, and they think its the right way. Unless you are going to sing a very long phrase, its not what you need to do, and it creates an energy abundance in the body that has to be managed. That is an advanced technique, and not needed/necessary for the novice.

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MariFreakinA: I'm with Steven on this one,

It's normally the case where coaches teach breath appropriate to the phrase length, whilst at the beginning to keep phrase length normally the line (phrase length to comma / pause / etc), and then over time to extend the phrase length.

i.e. Morning has Broken (3rd / 4th line);

At the start, "Praise for the singing (breath), praise for the morning (breath). Praise for the springing (breath) fresh from the wor(l)d."

Then over time, "Praise for the singing (breath), praise for the morning. (breath) Praise for the springing fresh from the wor(l)d."

Starter students, tend to not take enough breath appropriate to phrase length. Thus toward the end of a phrase, the pitch starts to fatten and tone starts to suffer. I guess some teachers "may" try to overcompensate and ask student to take a deeper breath rather than give exercises appropriately.

What you do find though occasionally!! though is that some students are taught to take a big breath, sing an extended phrase, then there needs to be a breath pause placed in the music (even for accompaniment), whilst the student takes another "large" breath. However, this DOES get noticed in concerts / festivals and when a mic is placed in front of them too, the breath is heard. (I do find this rare though).

As experience grows, the breath appropriate to long phrase, or song dynamics / emotion / symbolism. SO spooky songs may have extended ghostly "oooooh's" over several (3) bars or other songs that have a (1st bar) crotchet / quaver phrase then semi-breve tied over two bars (normally at end of line), so 3 to 5.5 bars too for other songs.

It's normal for teachers to teach / put breath marks on music. Was that never taught to you ?

Stewart

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I could never figure out why all these unfit fatties on TV can sing like gods and I could never muster a sound that I was really HAPPY with. If singing is a 'physical' activity then how can they do it and I cannot ?

Watch your favourite rock band - the singer looks like he/she is in pain with the extreme physical demands of belting out each phrase aren't they ?

This has confused me forever and made me try harder and harder 'physically' to do 'more' to sing. And led me to constrict more and more.

The more my throat tensed up the more I thought I had to 'support' and squeeze/push/struggle. I stopped. Went back to simply exhaling all my air. Exhaled some more so that I was COMPLETELY empty of air. and then began to sing. Just as I did this my body naturally took the sneakiest of small inhalations and what I found was instant balance - no tensing in my throat - no sense of running out of air - no sense of needing to push or squeeze 'something'. Just a balanced easy tone that went wherever it needed to.

I have always known that my 'range' is not my issue because I could sing notes lower and higher than my last singing teacher. But still I missed something on the way to making a tone.

I think I still have this ingrained sense that singing must be so physically difficult that I must 'do' something really active and clearly I have just been getting in the way of what my body wants to do.

Things I am really working on now that have dramatically cut the amount of tension in my body that leads me to constriction -

1) I am really working on taking in only as much air as I actually need and it's probably about 20% of what I was taking in - go figure

2) Relaxed lips and jaw (I'm really working on curbing)

3) Relaxed volume - singing with earplugs or even just sticking your fingers in your ears leads to singing at a comfortable maintainable volume and you instantly zone in

I posted on the CVT forum ages ago about how I seem to sing better 'hung-over' and now I realise why - because my body was so tired it just wasn't able to take on huge volumes of air and my muscles could not tense up... clearly the answer for some of us is to do LESS to sing rather than trying to do more.

i could have put my name on this post along with your's.

i agree with you completely. unfortunately it took a polyp to make me aware and rethink singing.

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