Enjoy this sneak peak of the Breathing for Singing Course!
In this video, we'll be covering 3 ways to last through a phrase. This is an over-arching, big-picture angle to organize all the different breathing techniques with singing. Remember, when you're working on these exercises, it's not just about lasting through a phrase, that's just the easiest place to see improvement in the skill. Most singers, most of the time, need to work on breathing technique for singing. You will find all kinds of side benefits when you are working on your breathing, you'll find new volumes are easier, unhelpful tension is reduced in you throat, singing higher/lower gets easier, your stamina improves, all kinds of things! So you absolutely do want to work on these techniques, even if you find that you are lasting just fine through your phrases.
Some singers are able to last through a phrase simply by excess tension and rigidity in their throat and body (AKA me as a high school choir singer). If at all possible, try your best to emphasize and work towards lasting through phrases as a natural “side effect” of staying open and free inside your body and throat. This is the point of the breathing technique, this is what allows flexibility, power, and fullness/richness of tone in your voice. We will go into further detail later on this course on how to do that. So only last up to the point that you feel free and open, avoid squeezing or pushing to get to the end of the phrase.
So there are 3 main ways to last through a phrase:
1: Taking in Enough Air for a Phrase.
Either releasing tension so air can re-enter, taking a consciously larger inhale, or taking in air more often in your song.
2: Slowing Down the Outflowing Air.
Have your entire body move more slowly so that (hopefully) the outflowing air moves out more slowly.
3: Turn More of Your Air into Sound
Sing without breathiness and avoid any milliseconds of silence between notes where air often escapes within a phrase.
If you get rid of your air, don't inhale, and then try to sing, it'll be difficult to sing! So in this breathing course, we'll be looking at helpful and unhelpful ways to inhale for singing, as well as ways to find which ones work for you. Even right now though, you can take a look at your song and see if and when an extra inhale and/or larger inhale might be helpful.
Slowing Down the Exhale:
If you release and/or push your air out too quickly, you'll naturally run out of air. Many singers mistakenly believe that to sing, especially at powerful volume, it requires pushing your air out. This is totally opposite to how your voice works. The louder the sound, the smaller the volume of air is escaping. Later in this course, we'll do an experiment to notice this in our voice.
If you hug yourself and sing, you can get a sense of the space you have inside for the air when you sing. The slower you feel the ribs moving, the slower (usually) the air will move making it easier to last through your phrase. You can also get a feel for if you are holding, pushing, etc.
Turning more (or all) of the air into sound.
If you speak or sing with a breathy sound, not all of the air that is coming up to your vocal folds is being turned into sound, so most people tend to (not always) run out of air more quickly. Of course, if you work on the other skills like slowing down the outflowing air and more frequent/helpful inhales, then that might not be the case.
There is a sneaky way in which “air leaks” can show up without you necessarily noticing it: whenever the volume drops as you move between pitches or hold on to a pitch. You can have a hand right up to your lips and feel that difference as the volume drops and see if you can notice that.
Even though breathing is an incredibly complex topic, it doesn't feel complicated. Most of our work in breathing is removing the "clutter" of extra tensions, movements, lack of energy, etc until we get a smooth, easy exhale and inhale. So what to do when you're trying to notice all the finer details of breathing and you feel lost? Come back to this video, and think of breathing in these 3 simple ways, and see which one seems to help.
For instance, sing through your phrase, and ask yourself: which would I like to try on this phrase? Slowing down the exhale, taking in more air, or turning more air into sound? You may notice for instance, that a particular phrase is challenging to last through and you're singing breathy. So you can try the vocal fold/cord closure videos and see where that takes you.