You must have heard singing coaches and choir masters tell you to sustain a note or control your breath. But has anyone told you what to do and how to go about this control? If no, you are in luck.
I shall explain in details how a singer should manage air and control their breath while singing.
If you don’t have knowledge of the vocal anatomy of a singer, click here to learn.
READ ALSO: Proper Breathing Techniques
Breath is naturally taken into the lungs, but for singers, we usually push a little bit further and drag some air into the stomach and sometimes the space in your back just beside the spinal cord.
Basically, a trained singer takes in air to fill every space in their trunk.
The diaphragm is one important tissue in the topic of breath management. The diaphragm has an upward arc shape when it is relaxed. This is its resting state; it also means there is no air in your lungs.
When you inhale deeply, the diaphragm is pushed to a downward arc. Our job as singers is to make sure the diaphragm remains in that downward arch position until you finish your phrase.
Now, the diaphragm is an involuntary muscle. But as professional singers, we train this muscle to respect us.
How? By doing certain daily exercises. Building breath and stamina in singing is just like building abs and shoulder muscle. You need dedicated exercise time and consistency.
i shall give you two breath control exercises. it is called the Farinelli exercise.
Perhaps the most efficacious silent-breath exercise is popularly called “Farinelli’s Exercise.” The great eighteenth-century castrato Carlo Broschi was known as Farinelli. To learn more about castrati and countertenors, Click Here.
Despite the lack of supportive historical evidence, oral tradition has it that following the advice of his famous teacher, Nicola Porpora, Farinelli performed this silent exercise repeatedly each day. It will be re-called that Farinelli was called “the silent breather,” and that because he could take such rapid, silent breath renewals, he gave the impression of being able to sustain phrases of unbelievable length.
Farinelli’s exercise ⁽1⁾
- Lie on your back, with a pillow or two placed under the head to ensure that the larynx is not elevated.
- Breathe normally, feeling as relaxed as possible.
- Place one hand on the front of the abdominal wall, the other at the side of the lower ribs.
- Notice the expansion that occurs at inhalation.
- Next, lengthen this inhalatory gesture, retaining it for as long as is comfortable.
- There is no sensation of “holding the breath”; one simply suspends the respiratory process. Breathing should be quiet and regular.
- Lips ought to be parted so that there is no holding back of the breath by the lips in the process.
- Aim for easy suspension of the breath, its measured exhalation, and for quiet breath renewal.
The Farinelli maneuver consists of three distinct but interrelated segments of the breath-cycle. The glottis remains open throughout the cycle. Never “hold the breath.” Count mentally, or rhythmically tap out the counts, during each of the three phases of the silent breath-pacing maneuver.
1. Paced inhalation. Quietly inhale over a count of four.
2. Retention of the breath. Remain in the inhalation position for a count of four.
3. Regulation of the exit of the breath. Pace the exit of breath, without audible exhalation, over a count of four.
farinelli’s exercise ⁽2⁾
Gradually elongate the segments of the breath cycle, with silent renewal taken by the nose or through slightly parted lips. By sequentially increasing numbers, a count of ten seconds for each of the segments eventually becomes accomplishable during a single breath cycle of approximately forty seconds. No matter what the duration, each breath is complete but uncrowded. There is no sensation of stuffing the lungs with breath. In the expiration phase of the higher numbers, some minimal contraction of the abdomen may occur, but there is no sudden inward anterior-lateral collapsing or ribcage displacement.
Inhale, count 5
Suspend, count 5
Exhale, count 5
Repeat this process while increasing the number of counts.
There are many other breathing exercises, but these two will drastically change your breathing game for a better singing experience.
John is a Nigerian Baritone, Falsettist, and a Writer. He is the first runner up for the Kingsley Inuope Idegun Memorial Award for Countertenors. His literary works have been published on online magazines like KalahariReview, PraxisOnline, AfroAnthologySeries, et al. He blogs stories on nighttalesng.wordpress.com
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