Breath Support

Breath support is the single most important issue in singing.

Soundwaves are created by causing air to flow through the vocal folds. The more air that is converted to sound by the vocal folds as they vibrate, the more sound will be created. This means both a more powerful voice, and a more beautiful voice. While such an important part of singing technique has many facets, initially it is best to work on maximising the amount of air getting into the lungs before each phrase, and then using as much of that stored energy when you sing as possible. To get the feel of this, I normally teach my students a breathing exercise called the "Hissing Cycle". This has 4 steps:

  1. Breathe in strongly through the mouth, and fill up the five primary areas of inhalation - the stomach area; the lower ribs on both sides; and both sides of the spine in the lower back region. ie expand these 5 areas outwards.

  2. After your lungs feel completely full, pretend you are compressing even more gasps of air into the lungs, as though you are blowing up a balloon inside your stomach until it is about to burst.

  3. Hiss the air out quickly, making a loud sound like a snake, or air escaping from a tyre. The jaw should feel loose, but the tongue behind the teeth creates some resistance, so you really have to push hard with the stomach to get the air out.

  4. After you have emptied your lungs, keep hissing or trying to for another 5 quick pushes. This will really work the abdominal muscles that are used in singing. The muscles that are hurting are the ones you need to strengthen and use every time you sing. Don't stop even though you feel you will expire - it is the muscles you access at the extremes of this exercise that become the major breath support muscles.

Most beginners go blue in the face or feel light-headed when they start practicing the hissing. This is normal - take it easy and build up your abdominal stamina gradually. If you practice the Hissing Cycle everyday for 5 minutes, within two weeks you should start to notice an improvement in the quality of your singing.