What does breathing mean for you if you're a singer?
Do you breathe in exactly the same way whatever you sing?
Do you have enough breath? Too much breath? Can't get to the ends of phrases? Only have a breathy tone?
In this week's Golden Nuggets singing experts Dr Gillyanne Kayes & Jeremy Fisher chat about troubleshooting breathing for singers.
This was the most requested Webinar topic by singing teachers in 19 countries, and it's the thing that most singers worry about, whether they sing as a profession or for recreation.
And in Inspiration of the Week Gillyanne talks about the rise of the death cafe
You can go straight to the Learning Lounge and dive into 600+ videos and resources on singing, voice and performance, including our Troubleshooting Breathing webinar, here https://vocal-process-hub.teachable.com/p/the-vocal-technique-learning-lounge
Or check out the video version of this podcast on our YouTube channel here https://youtu.be/rb7TVvB-TaQ
Or sign up for the newsletter here https://vocalprocess.co.uk/build-your-own-tilting-larynx/
Read more about death cafes here https://deathcafe.com/what/
We do this topic 24,000 times a day, but we don't think about it even though it's important for life.Gillyanne:
This topic can affect your mood personally and your mood as a performer.Jeremy:
Conductors need to understand this topic and they don't always, which is why asking the choir to do this on an upbeat is a no-no.Gillyanne:
Understanding the pattern in songs is so important to making this topic work efficiently.Jeremy:
And finally, why one size doesn't fit.Gillyanne:
And we run a survey of singers and singing teachers in 19 different countries. This topic was their number one concern.Jeremy:
The topic for the week of February, the 28th is... closeup of a group of choir singers hoping we will do something about their biggest worry, other than the conductor, obviously... troubleshooting breathing. This is a voice podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher. Okay. Gillyanne why are we doing this?Gillyanne:
Well, as we said earlier, the number one request for a webinar topic was breathing. And we know that many of our students and clients obsess about this topic. So this was webinar 16, wasn't it, Jeremy? Troubleshooting, breathing. And it's a deep dive into how we breathe, the fundamental reason why we breathe and how singers can refine their breathing for different singing tasks.Jeremy:
I think it's really interesting when people talk about breathing and they often get very obsessed about breathing but not necessarily for the reasons that they need to be obsessed. They will often go, I can't get enough breath in, or I keep running out, but they haven't actually analyzed why it is that they run out.Gillyanne:
yeah, I think there's a lot of misunderstandings about that, particularly in relation to singing because, um, what can happen is that people get obsessed with the goal of, I must get more. I must have more in, I must last out longer and really it's about understanding how the patterns work in the context of music. Am I saying too much too soon?Jeremy:
You're not, no, it's fine. And the interesting thing for me is that people obsess about quantity and it's actually not quantity that governs how well you use your breath. In fact, quantity can be counter-intuitive. So we're going to go, we're going to deep dive in Webinar 16 into all of those questions and come up with some clarity. Um, we have actually had some quotes on this one already from people who've done Webinar 16 before.Gillyanne:
So I love this one from Emma Aspinall. Thank you for this Emma "compulsory for all singers and teachers".Jeremy:
Yeah, I think that as well. And we had another great one "detailed, practical exercises, scientific myth-busting the clear definitions of the different breathing techniques as I've heard of them, but never really known what they meant or how they could be used."Gillyanne:
I think that's so important about the different techniques and also about the myth-busting, you know, because we build, we build these myths don't we, you know, around breathing and words that are used.Jeremy:
So we're going to do a deep dive in webinar 16, check it out. We're going to say goodbye to Gillyanne for the moment. I'll see you later.Gillyanne:
Why do we bang on about breathing for singers when we breathe all the time, what's the concern? Not enough? Too much? Can't last the phrase? Can't breathe in time? We answer all those questions on webinars, 16 troubleshooting, breathing, and you can find out more on the Learning. Troubleshooting Vocal problems, breathing includes the physiology and function of breathing, breath management in singing and troubleshooting problems with breathing. Let's talk about the physiology and the muscles. People talk about controlling or managing their breathing, but there are no muscles in the lungs. Which muscles are using to breathe? Do singers breathe with different muscles when singing than breathing in daily life? Well, it's complicated. You have the levator costarum, the scalenes, the external intercostals, the transvers thoracis, the latissimus dorsi, the serratus posterior superior, and they're all to breathe in. And of course the main muscle of breathing in which is the diaphragm. Then there's the rectus abdominis, the internal and external obliques, the transverse abdominis, the internal intercostals. And oddly enough, the latissimus dorsi again, and they're all considered expiratory muscles. Quiet breathing is called tidal breathing or passive breathing or passive respiration. So there's quite a lot to get through! Why bigger isn't better. It's all about the timing. Yes. It's breathing for singers we're talking about, we devoted a whole video in Webinar 16 Troubleshooting Breathing to breath and timing exercises. You're going to love it. It is so practical! Breathing for singing is considered a special act. Thomas Hixon in his 2006 book, respiratory function in singing - a primer for singers and singing teachers said "there is a desire to suspend respiration, change its rhythm, change its timing, change its depth, change its direction or otherwise impose a different pattern than the usual resting tidal respiration pattern. Very true words. The biggest difference between tidal breathing, speaking, and singing is the timing of the in-breath equal, -shorter, or much shorter respectively, and the extending of the out-breath -equal longer or much, much longer, depending on the genre. We break this down into more detail in the Webinar. How many different breathing techniques have you heard of? Is there a right to way to breathe for singing? In troubleshooting breathing, we examine for different techniques, rib reserve, Sumo, abdominal, and upper chest, and when you would use them. And you can listen to our podcasts, this is a voice, THE BREATH on why rib reserve and accent method are opposite breathing techniques. Oh, and by the way, in that podcast, I also demonstrate what happens to my voice following an old breathing technique. Here's an excerpt Oh yes. By the way, I forgot to say this rib and abdominal are opposites. And the reason I wanted to say this is when you do rib reserve you're holding air away from the vocal folds. And when you do abdominal, you're feeding her towards the vote. So to be honest, if you're doing a balanced version of both of them at the same time, It's sort of pointless because they hold each other back. Oh, now I'm going to have a little moment of disagreement because I think the kind of combination that Sheila's talking about and that I talk about is, uh, using the abdominal breath and using re stabilization so that you're actually allowing the ribs to move down slowly, whereas proper representative, which is what we asked you guys to do, uh, was to keep the ribs held out at all times. I'm being very literal because I'm talking about 50% of the. And if you have 50% of each of the eight will be absolutely still on we'll move that stretch for yes. So we're both right. I love that. What sounds do you use to practice breathing for singing? Just vowels? Humming? Unvoiced? No sound at all ( we never speak a word). Consonants interrupt the breath in different ways and you need to include them. This is a need to know for singers and teachers. A couple of years ago, I did a quick Twitter survey on songs that have no consonants, and from the millions of songs written, I think the Twittersphere came up with about six that included pieces like the Gliere concerto for wordless soprano, which is actually one of my favorite pieces, and Pink Floyd's Great Gig In The Sky, but that's not many. Pretty much every song you sing has consonants in it. So it's useful to know how those consonants affect the sound and why the continuous column of air is a myth that can cause vocal trouble. One size doesn't fit all. Yes, we have said that before. Your breathing technique may change depending on the sound quality you use, how loud you need to be and the length of your phrases. We do a whole video on this topic alone. It's a weird myth that's still around. I still meet singers who try to take the same amount of breath in no matter how long, short, quiet, or loud the phrases quick hint, you're wasting your energy. We go into this in a lot more detail in the Learning Lounge. So Gillyanne's back. What's your inspiration this week Gillyanne?Gillyanne:
I hadn't thought of this as being a segue to the topic of breathing, but it kind of is I receive, um, a weekly email from positive news and I highly recommend that you sign up for it if you need some of that in your life. And there's a variety of things that come from. But this one is about the rise of the death cafe.Jeremy:
And I love the headline fancy discussing your demise over tea and cake.Jeremy:
Yeah. We've actually done that ourselves!Gillyanne:
Well, absolutely. Yes. Having a chat about death with a cup of tea in one hand, and a slice of carrot cake in the other might sound unusual, but in fact, death cafes have been surging in popularity during the Pandemic. Originally set up in UK in 2011 organizers say the objective is to increase awareness of death with a view to helping us make the most of our finite lives. More than 10,000 death cafe meetings have taken place in 70 countries over the past decade.Jeremy:
That's amazing. I love that as an inspirationGillyanne:
and there's a need to talk about death and dying. We've always had that need. But of course it's much more present now due to the Pandemic.Jeremy:
Well, I think it was interesting in the pandemic. Suddenly we, I mean, people were having to do end of life care at home rather than sort of handing it over to hospitals or hospices or, um, residential homes.Gillyanne:
Um, and the research now suggests that more people are becoming comfortable. Uh, when talking about the subject and the, you know, the people who organize these cafes, they're always facilitated by someone say that it's incredibly valuable for the participants..Jeremy:
I don't think it's ever worried me talking about death, because I remember when I was about 20 and one of my friends at college, uh, lost her father and it was actually her mother that I talked to and because I'd never met him, I said, um, tell me about him. You know, what do you miss the most? And it was a really great opportunity for her. She said, she said this afterwards, it was a great opportunity for her to remember the good bits.Gillyanne:
Absolutely. And I love this quote. You've never met these people before and yet you're talking about the most intimate fears, worries, hopes, and dreams.Jeremy:
Oh there's only one thing though, no carrot cake. I really don't like it.Gillyanne:
No, not for Jeremy.Jeremy:
any other cake is fine,Gillyanne:
so we'll, um, we'll put the link in the show notes, do check it out. It's actually really quite inspiring.Jeremy:
This is a voice podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.