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Vocal Fundamentals Week 2: Breathing

Today, we're talking about our second vocal fundamental: BREATHING


Specifically, we're going to be talking through Diaphragmatic Breathing, and how it can influence so much of your singing or speaking.


If you've worked with a vocal coach, choir director, or voice mentor of any kind before, they may have said to you things like, "Breathe from your diaphragm!" or "Breathe from your belly!"


If you've worked with me before, you know I tend to add things like, "Dig deep!" or "Push your stomach out!" : )


All of these phrases are shorter ways of saying the same thing: use your diaphragm and lungs in the correct, coordinated way to get a great, full breath that will help you produce the vocal sound, tone, dynamics, and control that you're working towards (talk about a mouth full!).


For some voice users, this type of breathing can be really difficult to learn and maintain during a performance or speaking engagement.


So today I'm going to break it down into two ways you can learn and practice diaphragmatic breathing.


#1. Lie down on your back, knees bent


This is such a great place to start learning diaphragmatic breathing! I've seen it with so many vocalists - as soon as we lie down, our shoulders naturally stay stationary, and our breathing automatically comes from our belly. And that minimal shoulder movement and expanded belly is what we're working towards.


Keep in mind, it's 100% ok and normal to have to work at it a few times until you get it coordinated.


Here's what I want you to do:

  1. Lie down on a flat surface with your knees comfortably bent.

  2. Take a breath, and notice if your shoulders stay still and your belly automatically rises. *You can also place a small book on your belly and watch how this happens.

  3. If your shoulders are for some reason moving significantly, and your belly is not automatically rising, I want you to close your eyes and do one round of Box Breathing (the technique we learned last week).

  4. Then try your diaphragmatic breathing again.


If you have any trouble getting your breathing right with this starting point, reach out and let's talk through it. I'm here to help!


#2. Stand in front of a mirror


For this option, stand in a comfortable but supported posture in front of a mirror. Keep your head straight, chin parallel to the floor. Make sure your shoulders are back but not super tight.


Place one hand on your chest, and the other hand on your belly. This is going to help you feel as well as see in the mirror where you're pulling your breath from.


Now breathe in through your nose, letting your belly expand outward. Again, the key is that your shoulders should have minimal movement, and you should be able to see your belly push out and expand. Remember that it's ok and normal to have to work at it a few times until you get it coordinated. Over time as you continue to practice, you may even start to feel the expansion in your sides and back.


Now exhale through your mouth. Try to make your exhale smooth and controlled, not just one big PUSH of air. Pull your belly in as you exhale.


**If you have any lightheadedness while practicing your breathing, STOP. Regroup. Take a break. And then try again.


Whichever option you go with, start with practicing for 1 minute today, 2 minutes tomorrow, etc. Try to be at 5 minutes of breathing practice one week from today.


Now you might be asking:


"Why does diaphragmatic breathing even matter when it comes to my voice? Isn't my normal, everyday breathing good enough?"


The short answer is no.


When we sing or speak with a shallow breath, we end up sounding like we're out of breath, our tone can seem off, we aren't able to finish a strong or belted phrase or set of notes, and we can be pulling all of our vocal energy and force from our neck and shoulders. This can oftentimes lead to a hoarse or sore voice, sore upper body muscles, and a lot of vocal fatigue.


A full, supported breath can bring vocal strength, control, clarity, movement (think vocal runs and slides), and help to reduce vocal fatigue significantly. It helps foster a sense of ease when you sing or speak, and once you've figured out your breathing, your confidence will increase, too.


Your assignment this week: PRACTICE your diaphragmatic breathing.


First, start with lying down.


Next, move to standing in front of a mirror when you're ready.


Don't ever forget - We need the unique voice that you have! Learning the right breath support will help you to grow and develop your voice by leaps and bounds!


And if you find yourself really struggling to get your breathing coordinated, please don't hesitate to reach out! I'm here to support you as you learn and grow as a vocalist.


Next week, we'll discuss Vocal Warmups and how they are a POWERFUL tool for your vocal growth, vocal health, and vocal longevity.


Until then, I hope you enjoy your week. Talk soon!

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