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“Vocal Advantage: Breath (part 1)” by Dina Else

VOCAL ADVANTAGE: BREATH (part 1), by Dina Else
Welcome back!  As your semester has started hopefully you have managed to convince your students that optimal body alignment is a huge key to their success as singers.  Now on to the topic of breath!
Historically breath has been a hotly contested subject with drastically divergent approaches used by many reputable voice teachers.  In this column you will definitely be subject to my approach but I have done a tremendous amount of research on this topic over the years and will share those findings with you as well.
Even with the tradition of controversy and contradictory beliefs about breath, there is a surprising degree of consensus:
  1. Good body alignment is a prerequisite.
  2. Breath is air-flow energy which becomes utilized sound
  3. Through expansion of the rib cage and the contraction of the diaphragm, a partial vacuum is created in the lungs.  Air will then rush in to fill the partial vacuum.
  4. “Tanking Up” during breath intake leads to trouble!
As I teach breath concepts in my studio and my clinics, I break the topic down into two parts; breath intake and breath support/management.  We will start our discussion of breath by breaking down breath intake and then gradually move our discussion to breath support/management.
When I was a student of singing, I had one too many teachers who took the ‘pretend you’re smelling a fragrant rose’ approach to breath intake.  I’m wired to need information.  Tell me how something works and why it’s important that I know and understand it and I’ll never forget it.  Take the ‘scenic route’ and you’ve lost me a few miles in. J Whichever type of learner you have in your classroom; it’s important to explain the basics at least once.  It’s doesn’t have to be so science based and anatomy driven that they feel like they’re in the wrong class but it should be informative!  Remember; Knowledge is Power!
Step one is explaining the function of the lungs, the diaphragm, the ribs, and the intercostal muscles.  I take my time talking to them about the diaphragm muscle because most high school students only have a vague idea of where the diaphragm is, it’s size, and it’s function.  It’s important for the students to understand right away that the diaphragm muscle is an involuntary muscle.  In other words, we do not have control over this muscle in our body, it is triggered into action as the lungs fill and the intercostal muscles expand the rib cage. 
Until next week, your assignment is to get out your anatomy and/or vocal pedagogy books and review this anatomy.  If you have an ipad my favorite anatomy app series for this purpose is ‘Visible Body’.  There is also an instructional yoga video that has a great image of the diaphragm in action that I show my students:  (I turn down the volume to avoid the yoga lesson but the visual is awesome!!).  You can also find it HERE.
(original post date: August 26, 2013)
on August 26, 2013 7:58am
Can you give a little more info on the exact website for this demonstration? There is so much to choose from, I got lost in the search. Sounds like a great reference. Thank you!
on August 29, 2013 6:29am
Applauded by an audience of 1
on August 26, 2013 7:14pm
I would also like more specifics about the website.  I really appreciate your simple explanation of breath.  I have a similar approach but yours is more concise.
on August 29, 2013 6:27am
When you go to youtube type in and you'll find it!  :-)
on August 29, 2013 6:29am
on August 29, 2013 6:26am
When you go to youtube type in and you'll find it!
on February 9, 2015 4:21am
AMEN ! to show me what's happenin' vs. "imagine" theory--although for some people, that really works too.
Thanks for the great discussion opener..