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exercises for breath exhalation control

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CentreOfTheUniverse
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it seems that the management of breath for many singers is a porblem. many either blow/push too much air or dont let enough slip out (in a slow, controlled manner).

i have read many times that any pitch or volume should always use the bare minimum of breath needed for its designed outcome. one way of doing this is to master a controlled exhalation of breath.

two exercises i have heard of for controlled exhalation are the following.

1. the candle method. you take a candle and place it a little distance away, you then proceed to blow just enough air that you bend the flame but dont actually extinguish the it. as you get better you do the same process but gradually increase the distance between yourself and the candle.

2. holding the air in with the body. you take a breath and hold it in but unlike the normal process of using the throat as a valve to keep the air from escaping you use your diaphragm and torso. once you have achieved the feeling, you then go on to slowly releasing the air but still using the diaphragm and torso not the throat.

what are your top exercises?

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Gotta couple of my own actually. I also do stuff like liprolls but concentrate on the air being comfortable. Ssssss or shhhh until my lungs are empty, then filling up with air from the bottom up without raising shoulders etc. Regular whistling (not vocal chord whistle) a long steady clear note seems to help me judge how balanced my breathing is. I can feel the note originating just outside my lips or on the edge of my lips, resting on a small stream of air once the breathing is warmed up, and it tells me clearly when my breath is faltering because the note so obviously falters. Just dropping my jaw and going Aaaaah and making sure its a comfortable, steady, clear note that echoes out into the room like the whistling exercise helps me hear how uneven my breath is too, and also gets the chords buzzing. Any breath exercises Im constantly feeling with my hands for tension in the neck. Another one I stumbled over recently was dropping the jaw slowly while I inhaled, was a bit tricky which told me I was using too much neck muscles.

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it seems that the management of breath for many singers is a porblem. many either blow/push too much air or dont let enough slip out (in a slow, controlled manner).

i have read many times that any pitch or volume should always use the bare minimum of breath needed for its designed outcome. one way of doing this is to master a controlled exhalation of breath.

two exercises i have heard of for controlled exhalation are the following.

1. the candle method. you take a candle and place it a little distance away, you then proceed to blow just enough air that you bend the flame but dont actually extinguish the it. as you get better you do the same process but gradually increase the distance between yourself and the candle.

2. holding the air in with the body. you take a breath and hold it in but unlike the normal process of using the throat as a valve to keep the air from escaping you use your diaphragm and torso. once you have achieved the feeling, you then go on to slowly releasing the air but still using the diaphragm and torso not the throat.

Centre: almost all the ones I use are based on your #2, but go about it indirectly. For example,

1) Take in an easy, small breath, cup the hand 1" in front of the mouth, and release warm air as slowly as is possible, with the throat relaxed, and without phonating. Maintain the outward breath for 10 seconds, and repeat.

2) An advancement beyond that is to take smaller inhaled breaths, but to maintain the 10 seconds on outward breath. This requires, without asking the singer to do it directly, that the singer slow down the rate of exhalation so that it is barely perceptible.

3) With the sensation of that one firmly established, then have the student onset a tone in the mid-low voice, with the same inhalation and exhalation concepts. The tone will be clear, but very small.

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'Kay this brings up a question for me too....

(1) some say to oh so gently push in the tummy as you sing after a nice diaphragmatic breath....

and then as Center states in (2) and Steven elaborates a bit on, the "resist" method, only not just for exercises, but during singing too, THINK Robert talked once about this, in that he also "almost" -grin- forms a vacumn doing this as he sings :)

so ive been practicing 2 for quite some time now, and my brain is telling me 1 isnt going to give me much sound, but am confused as to which one is right!!!!?? Can anyone clarify???

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'Kay this brings up a question for me too....

(1) some say to oh so gently push in the tummy as you sing after a nice diaphragmatic breath....

and then as Center states in (2) and Steven elaborates a bit on, the "resist" method, only not just for exercises, but during singing too, THINK Robert talked once about this, in that he also "almost" -grin- forms a vacumn doing this as he sings :)

so ive been practicing 2 for quite some time now, and my brain is telling me 1 isnt going to give me much sound, but am confused as to which one is right!!!!?? Can anyone clarify???

Rychemariden: IMO, your #1 happens automajically if posture is maintained, and the resist is sustained throughout the note. I had a voice teacher once who describe it as 'the voice drawing the breath it needs'. Its a reflex... does not need to be 'done' intentionally, as it happens naturally.

The purpose of the 'resist' (as you call it) is to equalize the actions of inhalation and exhalation, so that the tone begun and sustained with it only uses the breath energy it needs. The resulting singing has very wide dynamic range, clear tone and helps reduce the tendency to oversing.

The sensations of this are sometimes described as 'drinking in the tone', or 'inhaling the note'.

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'the voice drawing the breath it needs'

'vacuum'

'drinking in the tone'

'inhaling the note'

I can relate to those descriptions. When I'm well warmed up, I can feel how the air seems to get sucked up from the bottom of the belly instead of pushing it. I even noticed that before I'd ever heard that explanation, and wasnt sure if it was correct or incorrect technique. Its not a decision I make, it just gets that way when you're warmed up and oiled up well.

I just dont do it often enough for that to happen naturally when I sing :(

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'Kay this brings up a question for me too....

(1) some say to oh so gently push in the tummy as you sing after a nice diaphragmatic breath....

and then as Center states in (2) and Steven elaborates a bit on, the "resist" method, only not just for exercises, but during singing too, THINK Robert talked once about this, in that he also "almost" -grin- forms a vacumn doing this as he sings :)

so ive been practicing 2 for quite some time now, and my brain is telling me 1 isnt going to give me much sound, but am confused as to which one is right!!!!?? Can anyone clarify???

hi Rychemaiden, hows it going. i used to post all the time of the voicecouncil site but have a different username here.

i guess your question is talking about support-(i purposely didnt use the term when i created the thread as it can mean quite different things to different people). just as there about a zillion different singing tecniques there are a zillion different views and aproaches to support. some say to pull the tummy in others say to keep it pushed out..... i guess it comes down to what does the best job for you. i think it will also change slightly depending on what type of music you are singing, especially in terms of vocal weight and volume. a heldon tenor for example is probably gonna need to really think about support where as with most contemporary styles a natural support is enough if your doing it right.

personally i believe more in how steven described it. though i have on occasion when support has been an issue in a lesson been told to pull in my stomach ever so slightly. but very rarely and i think it was used more as a tool to get back to a natural support rather than as a technique in itself to be used all the time. another one i have used if support has been an issue, and one that i feel approximates the feeling of what natural support feels like is to as you sing say a note that needs more support, learn against a wall with your arms out, elbows locked, a bit like your are trying to push down the wall.

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Thanks ALL for the replies, the "inhaling the note" gives me a mental image i can relate to :) i find that when i let the lower abdomen come in when singing i tend to lose air volume??.. and end up taking in a big recovery breath.With the inhale the note thing (or slmost spin" i think Monohan calls it), i dont have that problem..Center, what did you go by on the other site??

and I cant whistle either??!!! :P

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I'm not sure anyone else reccommends whistling anyway...to me, its very similar to ssssss exercises, the difference for me is that if you overblow, you hear clearly that the note is getting overblown and if you're not exhaling steadily, the note immediately starts wobbling. When Im blowing well, the note clearly sounds clean and clear.

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Thanks ALL for the replies, the "inhaling the note" gives me a mental image i can relate to :) i find that when i let the lower abdomen come in when singing i tend to lose air volume??.. and end up taking in a big recovery breath.With the inhale the note thing (or slmost spin" i think Monohan calls it), i dont have that problem..Center, what did you go by on the other site??

and I cant whistle either??!!! :P

Rychemaiden: just FYI, the 'inhaling the note' metaphor was one I got from a mezzosoprano in college, who studied with Hermanus Baer in Chicago during her summers.

There are several metaphors, or images to use to achieve the same effect. They all provoke the diaphragm to stay engaged in breath management, without actually instructing the singer to 'keep your diaphragm' engaged. While I know and like all the ones we have mentioned, when I was in touring choir in college, we wore beatutiful vests, so my personal connection was 'keep the vest full'. :cool:

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]

'Kay this brings up a question for me too....

(1) some say to oh so gently push in the tummy as you sing after a nice diaphragmatic breath....

and then as Center states in (2) and Steven elaborates a bit on, the "resist" method, only not just for exercises, but during singing too, THINK Robert talked once about this, in that he also "almost" -grin- forms a vacumn doing this as he sings :)

so ive been practicing 2 for quite some time now, and my brain is telling me 1 isnt going to give me much sound, but am confused as to which one is right!!!!?? Can anyone clarify???

I agree with Steven the intake is rather natural, holding the breath through sustained passages without wasting it is Key(thats the control)

as for pushing the tummy I find it best only at the very end of the phrase to end the note clean/empty and cause the natural intake reaction. You might also do so for firm staccato or for desired effect (choppy sound) in general it shouldn't be needed.

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