This Is A Voice

THE BREATH!

October 08, 2021 Jeremy Fisher and Dr Gillyanne Kayes Season 3 Episode 3
This Is A Voice
THE BREATH!
Show Notes Transcript

Dr Gillyanne Kayes & Jeremy Fisher dive deep into breathing techniques for singers & speakers.

And we share

  • What MDs really shouldn’t do to their singers
  • Why one of the classical “rules” really doesn’t serve the singer (and you still hear it on recordings)
  • When you don’t need much breath
  • Why rhythm is so important for easy singing (and it may not be what you think)
  • Why Rib Reserve and Accent Method are opposite breathing techniques and how you might use them together (or not)
  • How you can maintain “pressure” in long notes
  • Jeremy demonstrates what happens to his voice following an old breathing technique
  • And you hear us fact-checking each other on physiology (because after all, we’re humans)

RESOURCES
The Vocal Process Learning Lounge - 550 resources on singing, speaking and breathing techniques for less than the price of one singing lesson https://vocal-process-hub.teachable.com/p/the-vocal-technique-learning-lounge

SOVT 1 streaming course https://www.rayvox.co.uk/?ref=VOCALPROCESS

SOVT 2 live online course https://store.vocalprocess.co.uk/sovt-workshop

Online Singing Teacher Training Weeks 1 & 2 https://store.vocalprocess.co.uk/singing-teacher-training-online

This Is A Voice: 99 exercises to train, project and harness the power of your voice https://amzn.to/3iEXQ7Z 




Jeremy :

So there must be something there for you to enjoy. And hopefully you've enjoyed this podcast. Let us know if you want to answer it. Well, I can't speak today. Okay,

Gillyanne Kayes:

let's talk diaphragm.

Jeremy :

Let's talk diaphragm. Okay, so the diaphragm has a complete mind of its own. It doesn't behave in any way that it should. And it's a, it's an animal basically,

Gillyanne Kayes:

You didn't tell me you were gonna say this

Jeremy :

No, because it's all untrue.

Gillyanne Kayes:

I have absolutely no idea where you're going with it.

Announcer:

This is a Voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.

Jeremy :

Hello, and welcome to This is a Voice,

Gillyanne Kayes:

the podcast where we get vocal about voice.

Jeremy :

And this is Episode Three, series three, and we're calling it THE BREATH! Yes, we're doing a whole podcast on breathing. And the reason we're doing it is that we are three months into the latest run of our Accreditation programme. And we've been talking about breathing in all its formats. And there have been some amazing questions coming up from the Accreditees.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And not just the breath itself in a way. That's why we kind of played with the whole idea because there's a sort of Holy Grail isn't there, where we do it in capital letters, and all the things that impact on breath flow. They're really important considerations. And those are some of the things we've been talking about about pressure, and flow, and other stuff in our Accreditation programme.

Jeremy :

So this, these are some of the questions that we are hoping to answer today in the podcast and I hope you have several hours because there's quite a lot of them. Why do we need breath for singing? Breathing for phrases versus breathing for life energy?

Gillyanne Kayes:

Let's talk diaphragm.

Jeremy :

How do we breathe - abdominal release or rib raising? Which is best?

Gillyanne Kayes:

How do we control flow? And do we even need to?

Jeremy :

Why active and passive SOVT might help build the relationship between pressure and flow so it can happen more intuitively?

Gillyanne Kayes:

Why the timing of your in breath is important. MDs, pay attention!

Jeremy :

I'll buy that! Why the pitch you're singing might make a difference. And obviously why loudness might make a difference?

Gillyanne Kayes:

Why our mantra "one size doesn't fit all" really does fit all of these questions.

Jeremy :

And as a final token thing, breath as emotion. That's going to be fun.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Mmm. Okay, should we start?

Jeremy :

Yeah. Okay.

Gillyanne Kayes:

I mean, what are we doing, we riffing around these subjects. So are we doing them in order? What's the plan?

Jeremy :

Oh no, we don't? Do we ever do anything in order? No, we riff! I do want to just say that we record this a few days before it goes out. And today is National teachers day. So hello to all the teachers

Gillyanne Kayes:

Hurrah for me.

Jeremy :

Yeah, and me, yeah

Gillyanne Kayes:

No, you're a vocal coach,

Jeremy :

I'm still a teacher, vocal coaches are still teachers Are you? Right. No, I can still do teaching.

Gillyanne Kayes:

So first question. To the singing teacher this will seem very obvious, or the voice trainer. Why do we need breath for singing? I can remember working with one of my singers who's lovely cabaret singer. And you know, maybe six months into us training together. We were working in a masterclass. And I said, Look, you you know, you need more breath, you need more airflow. And she said to me, "Yeah, but I've still got air in my body. I've still got air in my lungs. Why do I need to take more in?" Boing! That was such a realisation for me. Because in fact, what happened was that sometimes her sound quality was pressed, she'd get through the phrase, okay, she could sing the notes. But there was that sense of pressure. And for some reason, I had not explained that what we need if we're going to keep the vocal folds rolling, because the vocal folds only vibrate in response to the breath. Vocal folds are clever, they can close but it's a muscular action that makes them close, but no vocal folds muscles, twitch at what have we got, you know, even 200 times a second, no muscles twitch that fast in the body. So if we wanting to sing A below middle C, which is around about 220 vibrations per second, it's actually happening in response to the breath. So it's the breath that keeps the vocal folds rolling in vibration.

Jeremy :

It's the breath passing through a narrow space, isn't it and that's where the Bernoulli principle comes in

Gillyanne Kayes:

Absolutely Bernoulli is the beginning of all of that, and of course there's more

Jeremy :

There's more.

Gillyanne Kayes:

But so what we needed to do in that particular situation was to encourage her to breathe earlier. And to really sort of take a slightly larger breath. And to feel that flow generating the sound. What was so nice about it from what I remember is that it really warmed the sound up. And then there's another corollary to that for lots of people who may be teaching beginner singers, which is, they think they've got to use up all their breath before they take the next one. No you don't, you can let go, you can go back to your residual air level. And then you can replenish for the next phrase,

Jeremy :

Oh there's so many places we can go with this. I just want to talk about breathing for phrases versus breathing for life energy. And that was my sentence, because this sort of ties in with the story

Gillyanne Kayes:

It does link with the story really nicely.

Jeremy :

There's a very interesting one, which is, I think there's a bit of a myth, which is sort of what Gillyanne was saying, where you take in a breath, and then you use it for your singing. And if you've got a really, really long phrase, you want to eke it out, you want to just feed a tiny little stream, you know, very fine tune your breathing. And then you wonder why things start to get a little bit shaky, because you've still got breath left in your body very much as this person was saying. And part of the issue is that that breath in your body, first of all, you are using it so that it's coming out, and therefore you're not holding it, as it were, we'll talk about that later. But the main thing is that the breath in your body, its main function is to give you life energy. So it's the oxygen exchange, and you know

Gillyanne Kayes:

And to create glucose

Jeremy :

And therefore to feed your muscles while they're working. And if you hold your breath back, and you're using it very, very slowly, that doesn't prevent the air from exchanging oxygen, carbon dioxide, glucose, all of that stuff, it doesn't prevent it, it still carries on going. So actually, you can still have half a lung full of air and yet need to breathe because your oxygen levels are too low.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Now, plus, and this may be too early to mention this. If the amount of air molecules inside the lungs create a pressure level that is lower than the air molecules outside the body, we get into a state that's called negative pressure. Okay, this isn't necessarily a bad thing,

Jeremy :

lots of, in fact all singers as far as I'm concerned, use negative pressure. Yeah, yeah,

Gillyanne Kayes:

I know, it's it's not wrong. And sometimes we do it. Let's suppose Jeremy wants to interrupt me, and I want to stop him. So I keep on talking. And can you hear that now, I sort of started to sound depleted, and I got into that negative pressure. So we can do that with our body. But suppose it's not the right pressure level to keep the vocal folds rolling on that note, and in that sort of sound setting that you want. And that's where we need to pay attention. That's where we need to understand that breathing is not just about where are the muscles that do the job. But it's an aerodynamic and mechanical event.

Jeremy :

I am scribbling furiously here, because there's so much to break down there.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Are you gonna tell me off here? Digging right into that

Jeremy :

Not at all, we are really going deep here. But let me just break down some of those things. Because there's quite a lot packed into that little paragraph that you've just said,

Gillyanne Kayes:

That's the long answer. Why do we need breath for singing? Okay, cool. Off you go

Jeremy :

First of all, let's talk lung volume and lung pressure. So if the air pressure inside your lungs, and by the way, this is when your vocal folds are open, so that there's a free passage in and out, when the air pressure in your lungs equals the air pressure outside in the atmosphere, whatever atmosphere you're in, then you are in equilibrium. When we breathe passively, which is you know, day to day breathing, when you're not talking, you're not doing anything, you're just relaxing and chilling, then you go slightly above that equilibrium. So you breathe in and use very slightly over pressurise so that you can get oxygen in and start that gaseous exchange. And then you breathe out and you go slightly below that equilibrium. And you just repeat that 1000s of times a day,

Gillyanne Kayes:

it's about 24,000 times a day. And the thing about that, and probably some of you will have heard this well the diaphragm works automatically because we breathe in our sleep. Therefore, we don't need to think about breathing. We don't need to control the breath.

Jeremy :

And in passive breathing, certainly I would agree with that. However, we also do active breathing. Active breathing is when you're talking and in fact we're doing it now. What tends to happen with active breathing is that pattern gets disrupted. So in passive breathing, the in breath and the out breath are approximately the same level the same length. In active breathing, you tend to breathe in slightly faster, you take in a breath more quickly, and you also take a slightly higher level of breath. And then you extend the out breath because you're speaking and remember that when you speak, the vocal folds interrupt the airflow.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Absolutely. And there might be some words that you really want to emphasise, in which case you'll use a bit more breath. And of course, as we know, there are some consonants like Sh and Ff which use more breath and other consonants in which we stopped the breath and then release it like b and t so that we need to be really flexible with that breathing system.

Jeremy :

Now you go into singing, which is actually a more extended version of speaking, and the pattern gets disrupted even further. The interesting thing about singing, particularly singing music that has been written by somebody else, is they have already decided what the rhythm is that you're going to do. And usually with singing, there is extended sound and very short time, a very short time to breathe in. So you get a very fast in breath, and a very extended out breath. And it's depending what genre you sing in if you're singing classical Bellini arias, those phrases are extremely extended. If you're singing rap, those phrases are really extended, which is a really interesting one, if you're singing pop, in general bubblegum pop, the phrases are normally quite short,

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, Billy Eilish song, then maybe you wouldn't need a high amount of breath in the body might be much more like the breath you would use when you're speaking.

Jeremy :

Yeah. So going back to lung pressure. What will happen when you're speaking and even more when you're singing is that you will take a larger amount in and you'll take it in faster. And that will over pressurise the system quite a lot. This is not a bad thing. In fact, you can do it now while you're listening to us, is just take a breath in and hold it. It doesn't even have to be a big breath. But you have already over pressurise the system, and it just depends how much overpressure you want. Then you start to saying you've got an over pressurised system. So mostly you are controlling the out breath slightly because you you're basically working with too much air as it were. And then as you go through the phrase, particularly if it's a long one, you hit equilibrium, and then you carry on phonating You carry on singing or speaking, and you're going into negative pressure. Again, not a bad thing.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Now there are ways that we can control that. And when we move on to talking about how do we control the breath in sustain mode, we can talk about how we can adjust the, if you like the size of the cavity as we're breathing out, but either by using the ribcage or by using the abdominal wall, and all of that, you know, because if you think about you've got the same amount of air molecules in a large container, and then the same amount of molecules as that in a smaller container, one of them's going to be more tightly packed. And therefore you have higher pressure. Yep. Does that make sense? People? I hope it does. Yes. Science friends do not kill me for my simplification. Let's talk diaphragm.

Jeremy :

Let's talk diaphragm. Okay, so the diaphragm has a complete mind if its own, it doesn't behave in any way that it should. And it's a it's an animal basically,

Gillyanne Kayes:

you didn't tell me you were gonna say

Jeremy :

No, because it's all untrue.

Gillyanne Kayes:

I've absolutely no idea where you're going with it. What we'd like to say and I know that you know, are the singing pedagogues will be with us is that so often one hears breathe from your diaphragm.

Jeremy :

Yeah

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, well, you will be breathing from your diaphragm. Even if you think you're only breathing from your ribs because you can't function without your diaphragm.

Jeremy :

I think we're all on the same page now that the diaphragm sits inside the rib cage, and in fact it never comes out of the rib cage. It just sits in there. Even when it's depressed to its lowest point it still doesn't come outside the rib cage. So we're going to just talk you through where the diaphragm sits. So if you feel down the your breastbone down the sternum

Gillyanne Kayes:

Both podcasters are now prodding themselves in the breast bone

Jeremy :

Absolutely yes, not each others' just our own. And you get to the bottom point of the rest planets very slightly tender point they're called the xiphoid process

Gillyanne Kayes:

That's the front, the diaphragm is joined on there

Jeremy :

That's the centre of the front and it's joined on inside the xiphoid process. And then if you feel with your fingers around out and down round the the front of the of your ribs. The diaphragm is attached on the inside of your ribs as you run, run your fingers down and round the whole ribcage, it's attached on the inside of the bottom of those ribs, but it sits right upwards. So actually ascends from those points inwards. The diaphragm is also a very interesting set f muscles and a tendon. The thi g about a muscle is that t contracts in the direction t lies. So if a muscle li s horizontally, it's going o contract horizontally. If a muscle lies vertically, it s going to contract vertically, t can't contract any other wa . Because all it happens is t e muscle fibres - my favourite w rd - interdigitate. They're like fingers that link and ther fore making the muscle shorter The thing about the diaphragm i you can't have a muscle that goes vertically. Because the e's, there's bits and pieces i the way you know your liver's n the way your intestines are n the way. So you need a str cture that will pull the whole ottom of the lungs downwards, ut it can't be vertical. So wh t you end up with is a par chute shaped set of muscles, the sort of curve up and in. An when they all those muscle And tendon is firmer than muscle, isn't it? ibres contract, they sort of pu l outwards and down. And right in the centre is a big sheet of tendon. And that is just pul ed straight down by that acti n. It's a very unusual setup, ut it works Yes

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah. Now we should just talk about the where the diaphragm is joined on at the back, because you might sometimes hear singers and singing teachers talk about breathing from the back

Jeremy :

Well, the back of the diaphragm is actually lower than the front

Gillyanne Kayes:

There are two, two, I think three actually little lines called the crura

Jeremy :

CRURA crura

Gillyanne Kayes:

And they join on to the lumbar spine and last of the thoracics

Jeremy :

The last of the thoracics.

Gillyanne Kayes:

The last of the thoracics! And it's quite quite a nice way to feel that opening in the back is if you sort of take the pose of a child, the yoga pose, then, you know, the front of the belly can't expand that much. And you really have to feel that expansion round the back.

Jeremy :

I don't know yoga. So what's the pose of the child?

Gillyanne Kayes:

Well, you are on your hands and knees initially, and then you leave Oh, gosh, it's really I'm not a yoga teacher. And then you kind of lean back onto your heels, but extending your spine. And then you have your hands by your side. That's the pose of a child.

Jeremy :

Okay, so you're sort of sitting on your haunches, but leaning forwards and flatter.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, you could also do it if you were sitting on a chair, and you just leaned forward onto your, the top of your legs,

Jeremy :

So you're isolating the front that it doesn't move, and then therefore the back can move. If you want an image of the diaphragm in your head, think of a parachute, which obviously is sort of dome shaped, but then tip it backwards slightly so that the back of the diaphragm is slightly lower than the front and then run a couple of strings down from the back. And that's pretty much the shape of the diaphragm.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Nice one. Okay.

Jeremy :

Oh, now here's it. Here's an interesting thought. The diaphragm is pretty much known as a muscle of inspiration. It it contracts when you breathe in.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Well, I was just gonna go there, can we support with our diaphragm?

Jeremy :

Okay, okay, this is a really interesting one, can you support with the diaphragm? The answer is mostly No, not in the way that people think. But occasionally, yes. And the reason is that the muscle, the diaphragm is also a muscle of inspiration and expiration in certain circumstances. And that's a really weird one.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, can I say a bit more about that. So you So I actually want to do an exercise. I want to talk people will read that the diaphragm is only a muscle of inspiration, and that is 99.5 correct. But we do know that if you take in a large volume of air, and you've got a, you know, a big phrase coming up, or you want to sort of conserve some air in some way that you can keep the diaphragm on as you start singing. And it through this because this kind of acts as a brake for the beginning of the outbreath.

Jeremy :

the hover breath? The hover breath. This is something that we did on Sunday Because what we don't want is for the diaphragm to relax immediately. And if you can think about that parachute shape, that parachute is going to move upwards, it's going to balloon upwards. And so the base of the lungs will be moved upwards, and then we could start having a problem. Yeah, so we do know that singers can do that, that the diaphragm can act as a brake. It's not so much technically a muscle of expiration, but it can stay on. with the Accreditation group, and it was really fascinating to watch the penny drop. Okay, so this is what I want you to do. First of all, take a breath in and close your vocal folds like you're going to do "uh" Like you're going to do a glottal onset. So you've taken a breath in, you've over pressurise the system and you've closed your vocal folds. So the breath is building up underneath, it's the beginning of a glottal onset, or it's even the preparation for a cough, your vocal folds, and the vocal folds are closed, and that's where the air is being controlled. So there's no flow. Now, what I want you to do is to take the same amount of air in but this time, keep your vocal folds open. And the I want you to keep the air still. And the question is, what is stopping the air from moving? Because it's not your vocal folds anymore?

Gillyanne Kayes:

And you could check if you're not sure is my air moving or not put a mirror in front of your face? Or put your hand right close up to your mouth? Because if you are letting air out, then you will feel the warm air on your hand or your mist up the mirror?

Jeremy :

Yeah. So the question really is what is preventing the air from coming out because you've over pressurised the system. So

Gillyanne Kayes:

And there's no muscles in the lungs?

Jeremy :

Nope, the muscles, the lungs are not muscles at all. They're just basically big, rubbery bags. I know I'm going to get grief for that.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yep. I hope there are no pulmonary experts listening today!

Jeremy :

Okay, so what is actually stopping the air from coming out? And the answer is you have got your inspiratory muscle still switched on. It's not actually pulling the air in anymore, but it's not releasing. So you've got the expiratory muscles, you're not using those, they're just held held, you're holding them if you like, and then you've got the inspiratory muscles held as well. So everything is held. And that means that the breath stops, there is no flow. This is a very, very useful exercise to find out how you can actually work your diaphragm on an expiration, because you can hold it dead still, as it were, or you can slow the release of the diaphragm down. And that will help you control airflow when you have a big lungful, and you don't want to blart it out at all at once.

Gillyanne Kayes:

So singers must be doing that if they do a slow staccato.

Jeremy :

Yeah.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And if they do what we call the hover onset, yes, the Aah Aah

Jeremy :

Is also called the simultaneous onset. It's called the glide onset. It's easy, easy onset, the singers onset. Basically, the sound doesn't start with a bump. And it doesn't start with a breath.

Gillyanne Kayes:

This is why we need to talk breath. Yes. So Jeremy, why do we feel our abdominal wall move, then when we breathe in? If the diaphragm doesn't go down that low? Why do we feel it move?

Jeremy :

Okay, well, ultimately, you don't have to feel it move, you can hold the you can hold your abdominal wall in and still breathe. But what is probably going to happen then is that the ribcage is going to raise a little more. And that's because if you're holding your abdominal wall in, it's going to hold your abdominal contents in. And there's only really one place for them to go. And that's up. So they're going to go up underneath the diaphragm and it's not going to be able to descend as far. But if you still want to take a deep breath and you're holding everything tight in, what will happen is that your upper chest will go upwards, because you're still trying to make the canister the rib cage so big that the lungs can fill.

Gillyanne Kayes:

If I'm thinking about that parachute, though, and I'm widening the rib cage, it will stretch the muscle fibres a bit one tip for the diaphragm

Jeremy :

Where?

Gillyanne Kayes:

It must

Jeremy :

Where?

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, at the side, surely

Jeremy :

Okay.

Gillyanne Kayes:

It's like spreading the parachute a bit.

Jeremy :

But in order to do that, you've got to move the ribs.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah. So we're still I'm holding at the front

Jeremy :

You're holding the front.

Gillyanne Kayes:

So the only way I can breathe in is by moving the ribs

Jeremy :

By moving the rib cage.

Gillyanne Kayes:

We are on the same page, always good to know

Jeremy :

We are totally on the same page. Yes, this is the By the way, this is the other interesting thing, which is people tend to think about breathing as being a front area. And it's a 360 degree area

Gillyanne Kayes:

Absolutely.

Jeremy :

You know, your diaphragm goes all the way around the rib cage goes all the way around. You know, you can use those to breathe into the front into the sides into the back. There's all sorts of places that you can use.

Gillyanne Kayes:

In fact, we often with our teachers show them how to use the Hoberman sphere. Maybe there'll be a picture of that in the show notes. I don't if you can do that, which is a lovely little kind of expanding toy, A little kids toy expanding ball. And we got

Jeremy :

It's a kid's toy this idea from the late Meribeth Dayme, who was a big pal of ours and a wonderful teacher, and particularly good on debunking all sorts of breathing myths, but it's just a wonderful way to help your students visualise the 360 degree breath. Because actually one of the things I want to talk about if we go into the next question, well hang on before we go to the next question. I actually haven't answered yours yet.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Oh alright, then.

Jeremy :

Because your question was, why do we feel the abdominal wall move? Yeah? And the answer is, if you want the diaphragm to descend a little lower, so that you can get more air in or the air goes in further. And you don't want to use the rib cage, because that will really encourage you to top up or not deep-breathe, then you want to release the abdominal wall to get the abdominal contents out of the way. So the diaphragm can contract down further,

Gillyanne Kayes:

I've got to say, from my point of view, since we know that the diaphragm is responsible for 80% of, you know, increasing lung volume, you might as well use it and not inhibit it by pulling in and holding the abdominal wall. Not that the diaphragm won't work at all, but you won't get that that deeper expansion. It also depends on the task. What is it that you're singing?

Jeremy :

Yes, it does. So do you want to go to abdominal release versus rib raising?

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, which is best because, you know, we've had lots of questions about this. A lot of people who've trained classically, including myself, have been taught to expand the ribs. And I had one teacher who said "No, I don't want to see your stomach moving. That's wrong, wrong wrong." So I became very good at doing a little kind of sniffing exercise that, of course you won't be able to see but I'm going to do three or four sniffs in really feeling that expansion of the ribs.

Jeremy :

Okay, let me just describe that because that's a very interesting movement.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Oh I was so good at expanding I was

Jeremy :

Gillyanne has her fists on the side of her rib cage, the bottom side of the rib cage. And when she sniffs each time, she sniffs in sequence, so there's no release between them. So I'm topping up You were topping up four times. And each time what happened was that Gillyanne's the rib cage kicked Gillyanne's fists outwards. And then you hold them, you hold the rib cage there. I mean, interestingly, it's already affecting my voice, because I just cannot get enough airflow. If I keep on holding the rib cage. I can't get enough airflow to make my voice work.

Gillyanne Kayes:

To be fair, my old classical teacher, the other half of the exercise was this.

Jeremy :

Okay, so it's the reverse. It's breathing out

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah,

Jeremy :

and releasing out

Gillyanne Kayes:

but the idea was kind of to keep the rib cage buoyant. And obviously, when I did that, there was quite a lot of movement in my abdominal wall as I was breathing out, too. So even so it's quite a hoick to keep those ribs in position, isn't it? Well, let's,

Jeremy :

let's talk about this. Yeah, let's talk about this.

Gillyanne Kayes:

We've morphed now, are we talking rib raising as in rib reserve? Or what do we talking about?

Jeremy :

Okay rewind because there may be people who have never heard of rib reserve. And rib reserve is basically raising the sides, particularly the sides of the rib cage, but occasionally the upper part as well. And holding it there while you sing. So you do that on the in breath. And then you hold the rib cage out while you sing. And that was a technique. I don't know whether it's still taught it probably is. But that was a technique that was taught a lot when I was at college, which is 30 years ago. And the question then, is because often with these exercises, there is always something useful in the exercise, whether it's completely useful is another matter. But the question is, what is the useful bit of rib reserve? What are you doing when you're holding your ribs open. Answers on a postcard and we'll tell you next week. No, I lie. What happens when you're holding the ribcage open is that you are keeping the lung volume, big, you're keeping it all expanded. Now if you start to sing, you're using the air and therefore you're using the air molecules. And as you go on through your phrase, you actually use more and more air molecules. And there are less and less in your lungs.

Gillyanne Kayes:

So you're going to lower the pressure Yes, inside the lungs.

Jeremy :

You are, yeah, and the difficulty if you like is it's fine to do the rib raising bit at the very beginning of the sound because you are over pressurised already, but as you carry on through the phrase, you become equalised pressure and then you start to lose pressure. Because you're using the using the air molecules they're coming out, but if you're still holding that rib canister open, that pressure is going to go down a lot. Now, if you want to keep a steady stream of air going to your vocal folds to keep the tone to keep the volume to keep the sound. You have to make that canister smaller

Gillyanne Kayes:

At some point.

Jeremy :

Because making the canister smaller will keep it will maintain the pressure inside the lungs. Remember that the air molecules are leaving So you're getting less of them in there. So in order to keep the pressure, you have to make the canister smaller. If you are holding your ribs out right to the end of the phrase, you can't do that, the only thing that you can do is work extremely hard with your abdominal wall to get the pressure up. So what you're doing then is you're pushing the bottom of the canister up.

Gillyanne Kayes:

That's very nice. And I can see that before we understood more about the system, not only the muscular interactions, but as Jeremy has just been saying, We've got two, we've got two cavities, and they interact on each other to help control and manage the pressure,

Jeremy :

okay, which is what are the two cavities?

Gillyanne Kayes:

The two cavities are the abdominal cavity, and the lung cavity or the chest cavity, and the diaphragm cuts, the two of them in half diaphragm is the boundary between them. And of course, down at the bottom we have the pelvic floor. So we have another boundary there between the abdominal cavity and the pelvic cavity.

Jeremy :

That's a bit of a red herring in this conversation

Gillyanne Kayes:

In this context. So what I wanted to say is that I can understand you know, in traditional pedagogical practice before we really knew about the these interactions, that if we wanted to sustain the breath, a singing teacher looking at their student would want them to keep the ribs up, so that they could "retain the breath" and make it sustain for a long time

Jeremy :

Ironically, is going to do, it's going to do the opposite.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Unfortunately, we do not have an aqualung in the body. And therefore, as Jeremy said, we start to get depleted, and it can cause problems.

Jeremy :

So the answer if you like, is if you want to do the rib raising thing which will, by rib raising, you are essentially lowering the pressure inside the lungs, and at the beginning of a phrase that might be a good idea, might not, depends what you're doing. But the one thing that you do need to do, as the phrase goes on is to release that rib raising. And to make the canister smaller, you need to see those ribs coming down to maintain the pressure.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And in fact, I would say allow them to come down rather than squeeze Yeah You don't want to squeeze if you were really trying to wring out the very, very end of a phrase, maybe for expressive purposes.

Jeremy :

And we are talking what's the task, as usual. If the if your task is to use your vocal folds need a fine stream of air and a finely controlled stream of air, then you very well may use rib reserve and abdominal wall movement in combination. Certainly to begin with. If you are doing something where the vocal folds need quite a strong stream of air, or you're doing something breathy or you're doing something belty

Gillyanne Kayes:

Or just very short phrases

Jeremy :

Short phrases, then you don't need the rib reserve thing. It's for me, it's very much a classical thing.

Gillyanne Kayes:

It could be counterproductive. Okay, well, let's talk about because we're still talking, you know, initially about getting the breath in, but we've talked a little bit about how we control the breath out, which obviously is super important. Abdominal release. And now this is associated with a breathing technique, which people are very familiar with in the UK and Australia and in the rest of the EU, which is the Accent Method breathing

Jeremy :

Yes. Smith technique. Yeah. Svend Smith.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah. Which came originally from Denmark.

Jeremy :

Yes.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And it was used a lot by clinicians. And it has been taken into the pedagogical community. I think with great success. I mean, I certainly personally use it a lot and find it very helpful. It uses a lot of rhythmic movements, generally with active SOVT, so things like voiced fricatives vv zz zh. And also the unvoiced fricatives ff sh ss. Those sounds, which all all of the fricatives will require an out breath, don't they? And often the accent method is taught initially with quite an active abdominal movement in

Jeremy :

It's quite an active pull in

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah. Now then Accent method fiends If you think that that's incorrect, and I've misrepresented the way that you teach it do do let us know.

Jeremy :

Before we go any further with the Accent method description, I want to ask a question. What the hell is the question?

Gillyanne Kayes:

Is it about rhythm?

Jeremy :

No, it's about direction.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Oh, why are we pushing on the diaphragm?

Jeremy :

What's happening to the air if we're going to pull in the abdominal wall which direction is it heading in?

Gillyanne Kayes:

Is it going up or down? Just think about it, folks.

Jeremy :

In a way, this is the biggest difference between rib reserve and Accent method breathing. If you think about rib reserve, the basic premise of rib reserve is to keep airflow away from the vocal folds, you are keeping the pressure low or lower. The thing about Accent method is you're getting airflow to move towards the vocal folds. So you're maintaining a pressure that can be slightly higher. The two are sort of opposites. And if you want to balance them, you have to know that.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, I think that's quite a nice description. Because often what happens I mean, if you work with someone who's maybe absorbed the idea that they need to expand everything, and then kind of hold to control and mean very typically, that might be an avocational, choral singer. And then they come to you for lessons or you know, maybe kids who work in in a group and have been told, take a big breath, let me see you take a big breath. And they'll tend to lift the chest that if you show them how to, you know, pull in a little with the abdominal wall, on the outbreath. It seems counterintuitive, which is well, why would I be pushing or sending air out of the body when my objective is to control? Well, the answer to that is it's not just the breathing system that controls the breath, it is also the vocal folds, because phonation is interrupted airflow. Now, for me, the magic of the Accent method approach is it builds that relationship, it builds the coordination between the breathing system, particularly with the abdominal wall, in which we can actually fine tune the movements, it actually builds that connection between the abdominal wall, the airflow, and the vocal fold vibration, and not only that, it uses rhythm. And what do we do in singing?

Jeremy :

We use rhythm

Gillyanne Kayes:

We use rhythm, yes, so I have to say, hand on heart. That's why I'm very fond of the Accent method approach. And I think it works really well.

Jeremy :

I don't know whether this is just people that I've worked with that or people who have arrived in my studio, there seems to be a part of the Accent method breathing that is overlooked, and I actually think is the most important bit, which is letting go when you breathe in. Because people talk a lot about the movement when you're phonating. When you're speaking when you're singing, they talk about a lot a lot about the movement in. But actually for me, the most important bit is letting those muscles go and allowing it to move out. And that means the diaphragm can contract down further and get more air in or a deeper, deeper breath.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Isn't this what Janice Chapman calls the SPLAT? Singers Please Loosen Abdominal Tension.

Jeremy :

That's the one Yeah, very, very useful, because so many people struggle to get breath in. And you know, there are a lot of people who come for singing lessons going, I really need some breathing exercises. And honestly, half of them just need to let go of the abdominal wall so they can actually get the air in in the first place.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Let's talk about watch points that we've come across with people who've learned Accent method or other approaches that derive, let's say from the Accent method approach, which is that they've learned to do all these lovely buzzing sounds or maybe they've been you know, bubbling in water or something like that. And doing abdominal pull-in to build that connection. And then what happens is they start to pump the breath. So every time they start a phrase, even though they're already over pressured, not only is the diaphragm relaxing, as we start to breathe out, start to use expiration, but we're also pushing, we're pushing on that upper canister. Now we don't need to do that. Because if we have sufficient air in the lungs to sing the beginning of the phrase, or maybe even the first three or four notes of the phrase, the last thing we want to do is pull in. I also think the where the action is if you like where you do the pull in, the where what does that mean?

Jeremy :

No, it's just thinking where the action is.

Gillyanne Kayes:

where the action is, folks, it's not you do the release, I teach people to release in the you know, the centre of the abdominal wall here the the tummy button is the belly button is but I teach people to feel the pull in lower down. So you need your thumbs over your belly button and then kind of make a triangle with the hands going lower down and you feel that little pull in so you know we are it is kind of in the region of the groin and you need to be quite careful in the way that you teach that to other people.

Jeremy :

This makes sense when you see on anatomy drawing or apps than the four lots of muscles that form the abdominal wall.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And these muscles are considered muscles of expiration. So the diaphragm isn't a muscle of exploration, therefore, we don't actually support with the diaphragm, yes, but we have these muscles of expiration that help us control and slightly pressurise the air if we need to.

Jeremy :

Yeah, and the really key bit is if you go to the very deepest layer, which is a wraparound layer, it's like a corset, there's a gap in it, which is below the navel, there's actually a gap in the muscle. And then the second deepest layer, which is the abdominus rectus, it's the six pack slots in - mostly it's in front of the bottom layer, but right at that gap, it slots in and through and goes underneath it

Gillyanne Kayes:

And that gap's quite low down isn't it

Jeremy :

It's quite low down. Yeah, that's the best place to feel the movements

Gillyanne Kayes:

and the other muscles, because we have what are called the internal or external oblique muscles, I mean, you know, do go and look them up. And you'll see that the muscle fibres run in different directions. These muscles also slot in down there. So when we did that little pull in with transverse abdominus, which is the body belt, if you like, we get a chain reaction with all of those muscles. And I think this is the beauty of actually feeling that little bit of a pull him down there.

Jeremy :

And it's actually what's good about it is that it's slightly more subtle. So it feels like you have more control over it. Sometimes when you're first learning Accent method, breathing techniques, you do them really quite hard and quite fast, and then try and transfer that into the singing and you end up over pressurising at the very beginning, just in the vocal folds

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, and you sometimes with those people, you get a lot of pushing the stomach out. It's not really about that it's about release. And remember we said that breathing is a 360 degree event. Okay.

Jeremy :

Okay, right, next question. So we're we're getting close, we're getting close to the end of the list.

Gillyanne Kayes:

We talked a little bit about how we've got two cavities, the abdominal cavity and the chest cavity, and how we can get the one to act on the other. And we've talked about how the vocal folds also help us control the flow by opening and closing. I'm not sure we need to go any further with that, we might come to it later,

Jeremy :

I want to go to timing

Gillyanne Kayes:

You want to talk about timing of the inbreath

Jeremy :

Timing of the inbreath.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Do you know what? I think this is one of the most important things that we need to pay attention to his teachers. And we don't always notice it.

Jeremy :

This is, again, there's a sort of myth. You know, we're on mythbusting day today, there's a myth that you sing to the end of the phrase, and then you take a breath, and then you start the phrase again. And it's a really interesting one, because so many, and I have to say it's particularly classical singers that I've worked with, because they are taught very strongly that you must sing exactly what the composer wrote. And you must sing full value. And you must resonate to the very end of the last note, that what they do is they in a four beat note, they resonate at the very end of three and three quarter beats. And then they try and snatch your breath to start absolutely on the beat again. There is so much wrong with this and I just want to break it down.

Gillyanne Kayes:

There's no time for that wonderful splat

Jeremy :

No, not at all. Okay, that's the first thing is you simply do not have time to release, all you will do is a very well, you have two options. Basically, you have the snatch breath, or what I call the Wagner suck, which is... which is really really trying to get in as much as possible as fast as possible. So that's not a good idea.

Gillyanne Kayes:

You can do top ups top ups are okay, but we're not talking about this at present

Jeremy :

But not all the time. So the second thing is, let's assume that the word that you're singing on the beginning of the next phrase is "strong", the word strong. The interesting thing about timing is in order for you to sing in time, the vowel has to come on the beat. By the way, this is a golden rule. If I've never said this before, if you want to sing in time, put the vowel on the beat. If the vowel is on the beat, that means the consonant needs to come before the beat.

Gillyanne Kayes:

If you're singing jazz, and you want to back phrase you can mess about with that.

Jeremy :

Absolutely. So if the vowel... if the consonant needs to come before the beat, how many consonants are there on the word strong? And the answer is three. There's an S, a T and an R, and you've got the two unvoiced consonants and a voiced consonant

Gillyanne Kayes:

And one of them by the way that needs more breath. Yes, because it's a fricative.

Jeremy :

So in terms of timing, you've got to start that word quite a lot before the beat. And if you've got to start that word before the beat, you've got to end the previous word early. And if you need to breathe between the two, you need to end it quite a lot earlier. And by the way, if you are resonating right to the end of the note, you need a microsecond for your vocal folds to stop before you can even breathe in. It's one of the reasons why sometimes on recordings when, and I have to say, I think it's particularly Sopranos.

Gillyanne Kayes:

What!?

Jeremy :

Yes, I'm sorry, is the one those are the ones that I hear.

Gillyanne Kayes:

That's because you only listened to Sopranos.

Jeremy :

Well, it could be. I love my Sopranos

Gillyanne Kayes:

He loves top notes.

Jeremy :

Yeah, I'm a failed soprano, obviously. Anyway, what I tend to hear is that they're resonating to as long as they can on whatever the last note is. And then they try and snatch your breath in and start the new phrase. And what you hear is, it's almost like a glitch. It's really subtle, but you hear it, it's because the vocal folds have been vibrating and resonating and doing their thing. And the singer hasn't given them enough time to stop doing that before they try and open the vocal folds and breathe in. And it's really interesting, this is all about timing. And if you like it's a, it's a sort of unwritten law in people's heads that actually really needs to be wrapped up beautifully and burned. Because it is useless for singing, which is I must go to the very end of the note, no, cut the note short, much more important that we hear what's coming next.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, I want to say something that is also relevant to MDs, as well as working maybe with less experienced singers, or perhaps singers who've run into trouble. What often happens is that, you know, let's suppose you have a playin to a song. And your student is listening to your play if you're in there in person, or listening to the backing track. And they're listening, and they're counting, and they're waiting for their entry. And they've got all the beats and then they go, and then they sing

Jeremy :

We see that all the time.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah

Jeremy :

We see it all the time. Now, I have to say, choral conductors, you're the worst culprits.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Why?

Jeremy :

Because well, because you want to see everybody breathe in.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And how do you bring your singers in,

Jeremy :

You lift your arms really easily, really clearly. And everybody goes.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And you do it on the upbeat And you do it on the upbeat? But what if they're going to sing Va Pensiero? With those long phrases?

Jeremy :

Or what if they're going to come in really quietly, doing that sort of snatch last breach, last beat rhythm breath is not a good idea. Because for the same reason, which is you take that fast in breath, it takes a second, fraction of a second for your vocal folds to settle down before you actually phonate.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, and you know, every time we've done a musical directors training course, which we haven't done for a while, you know, due to the pandemic, that is always mind officially blown. That moment that one thing changes people's lives that then that a good conductor will have another indicator before that upbeat where they're guiding the singers as to when they need to breathe. And that's something actually that every musical director, every choir director, should be practising with their singers finding out where where does their singer need to breathe.

Jeremy :

So for instance, you might be indicating the beat with one hand, and you might integrate a 2-beat upbreath with the other.

Gillyanne Kayes:

I just want to pick up on what you said about giving time for the vocal folds to come together. Sure. There's a kind of a rise time and it relates to the Bernoulli idea, so that you breathe out. And of course, we breathe in and out passively all day, without actually making sound without phonating. But there's a moment when we are getting ready to speak or sing when the vocal folds the correct term is they approximate, they come closer together. And if you've ever done that little thing with the two pieces of paper and Bernoulli, you bring the pieces of paper closer together, you blow between them, and hey, presto, they come together. That's a tiny rise time. If we don't allow for that rise time, if we take that, you know that breath very fast, particularly if we were we had run out of breath in the previous phrase, then often that's what causes a breathy voice and uncontrolled, unsustained sound. So timing of the breath.

Jeremy :

There's something else about timing of in breath, I just want to highlight and that sometimes comes from the singer themself, which is they want to sing in rhythm. So they want to be really rhythmic about whatever it is that it is that they're doing.

Gillyanne Kayes:

That's because all of you instrumentalists complain about our lack of sense of rhythm.

Jeremy :

Well, I'll come to that in a moment. Because there is a specific reason for that. And it depends on the style as well. But the main thing is because you want to sing in rhythm, you want an impetus that is in rhythm, and the easiest thing to do is just to take a breath in on the last beat to go... And, and therefore you have that rhythmic impetus, and that's absolutely fine. If you are in a square 4/4, it's a really strong beat, it's a really strong back beat whatever it is, if you have something that's a little more lyrical, and you do that requires a lot more control. And I'm going to suggest that you don't even take that final beat inbreath that you actually take one early, you take it a beat earlier and slower. So if you take a breath in slower and earlier, you're actually more in control to do a soft sound, for instance. So if I do this, I am in control, I can hover just before that sound comes in, or I can just start it, I'm much more in control. And although it might feel that you are less rhythmic, it's much more effective.

Gillyanne Kayes:

So next time you pick up a song, play around with where you breathe in relation to the beginning of the phrase, breathe a beat earlier, breathe two beats earlier, breathe three beats earlier. Yes. And teachers notice that with your students. And remember, one size doesn't fit all. One student may may be able to breathe in that halfbeat before they sing and another student may not

Jeremy :

Yes, I think we should start to wrap this up. Yeah. And we have loads more questions. So we may even do a second one. If you have any questions about breathing that you want us to talk about, please go on to speakpipe.com/VocalProcess and record us a question and we will play it on the next podcast or just drop us an email [email protected] We also have a whole load of resources and courses and stuff coming up that we want to highlight because this is such an important topic.

Gillyanne Kayes:

These are going to be great for a following up aren't they? In the Learning Lounge, we have a couple of things

Jeremy :

I want. Let's start with the Learning Lounge. I mean, the Learning Lounge is enormous now and we're adding to it all the time. So it has well over 500 videos on there now. But the ones that we would point you to are we have Webinar 17 No, it's 16. No, it's it is 16. Webinar 16 troubleshooting breath, Webinar 17 is troubleshooting range

Gillyanne Kayes:

What we're doing is we're looking at how do we purpose this understanding of the breathing mechanism in the context of song,

Jeremy :

The great thing about the Webinars and because there are 18 of them on the Learning Lounge is that each one is an hour long, but I've cut it up into sections. So you know, you've got a five minute video and they're all labelled so that you know what each video is about. And you can drop in and watch any one of those videos, or just sit and watch the whole hour.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And I'll talk about this a Lesson Plan isn't there, which I wrote there is a breath awareness.

Jeremy :

There is a Lesson Plan, yes

Gillyanne Kayes:

And this is a kind of pre thing that you would do with, you know, young students or beginner students, just to put them in touch because often what happens, you know, you could work with someone, for example, who's the CEO of a company. And you could explain to them about breathing, but they just have no awareness of the physicality of how something moves.

Jeremy :

You You worked with a television presenter, very famous television

Gillyanne Kayes:

quite a while back

Jeremy :

who had that issue

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah. And I remember one of the things I talked about was, well, you know, your, your, your belly moves out when you breathe in. And then you pull in your belly when you breathe out. And they said, Well, why is it the opposite? Why are you saying it moves out when I'm breathing in? And I thought, yeah, counter intuitive. Yeah. So the, the breath awareness is useful for that. It's also great for group work and you can adapt it for working with children, or adults. You could also use it you know, maybe with music and different rhythms, have a play with it. It's quite fun.

Jeremy :

If you haven't come across one of our Lesson Plans, it is a fully structured 45 minutes to an hour and a half lesson that we have given you everything to do in we've given you the exercises, we've given suggestions about what you can ask what you can talk about with people, what sort of answers you might give, it's really comprehensive. So if you're looking for something to do with your class, or even you can use them in one to one sessions as well. Then check out the Learning... the Lesson Plans in the Learning Lounge. The other thing that we want to flag is the SOVT 2 course is coming up in November. Yeah, and we will put the dates up in the shownotes

Gillyanne Kayes:

an excellent work workshop for understanding about the relationship between pressure and flow and different ways of getting in touch with how we control the breath,

Jeremy :

if you haven't come across SOVT and obviously if you've listened to this podcast, we have four episodes on SOVT so hopefully...

Gillyanne Kayes:

Semi-occluded vocal tract

Jeremy :

Semi-occluded vocal tract exercises, and SOVT 2 is coming up in November, you have to have done SOVT 1 before you do SOVT 2, but SOVT 1 is now available online, so you can go and get that immediately. spend as much time as you like going through that before you come on SOVT 2, and we do recommend it

Gillyanne Kayes:

and that Popup is with Jeremy me and with Oren Boder. Who is RayVox and the creator of the SOVT Singer Straw

Jeremy :

Yes, that's coming up in November. In January and we're looking ahead a little now the Online Singing Teacher Training Week 1 starts and that is if you go and have a listen to the previous, one of the previous podcasts, which is all about the Ziggurat then you will understand that it's one of the steps that you take to come onto our Accreditation programme or you can just take the OSTT 1 by itself a few people have they've come on they've gone wow this is amazing. And you know can we come on OSTT 2 in maybe six months time. So in January we're doing OSTT 1 and then in February we're doing at OSTT 2 and all the details we will put on the show notes

Gillyanne Kayes:

and we spend a lot of time in OSTT 1 talking about breath management and the breathing mechanism and actually when we get into SOV... SOVT! Listen to me

Jeremy :

Acronyms!

Gillyanne Kayes:

Yeah, when we get into OSTT 2 we talk about again how we're timing of in breath and purchasing breath and different breath uses for different vocal styles.

Jeremy :

And a quick mention for the This Is A Voice book, which we haven't mentioned for ages, at 99 exercises to play with all sorts of things that you can do is quite a lot on breathing and how you control breath. And we're very pleased to find out that the book is on Phoene Cave's reading list of The Musical Breath, which is about breath and vocal health.

Gillyanne Kayes:

And we also talk about breath use in different musical genres don't we? We do Please let us know if you have any questions or any comments. We love to hear from you. And as always, you can use the speakpipe app

Jeremy :

Speakpipe.com/VocalProcess To have your voice heard. Yes, we'd love to play you On our podcast. Yeah, we'd love to play if you want to do an exercise for us then record that as well. We can play that

Gillyanne Kayes:

Get vocal for us.

Jeremy :

Yes, we'll see you soon. Bye.

Gillyanne Kayes:

Byebye.

Jeremy :

This is a Voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.