Sunday, May 13, 2007

Breath Techniques of Power, Path &Performance and Alexander method for singing

OK... are you ready for some serious vocal technique study?

Vocal technique methods, if correct, should lead a singer to the same optimal operation of the voice. The imagery may be different, but the anatomy is the same.

In the next few posts, I would like to discuss Power, Path and Performance vocal training method techniques in relationship to the "Alexander Technique", which is a tremendously important study of connecting the body and mind to the voice. I am going to give you a link to a very informative article from teacher Ron Murdock on the Alexander Technique which I encourage you to read as you ponder the following techniques I teach in "PPP". This post will concern "Power"... of the breath. .

Please click the following link: and scroll about 1/3 of the way down. Begin reading where the paragraph begins "The breathing organ makes up the other half of the singing instrument..."

When you've read the paragraphs concerning the breathing apparatus, please focus on Illustration (Fig) 15.
Notice the intricate scaffolding connecting and suspending the diaphragm to the bottom of the ribcage... AND to everything from the neck to the lumbar spine. Looking at this, we can see how important it is to be flexibly tall, not allowing the chest to collapse inwards. Support and control of breath truly is dependant on balancing the weight of the body on the strong leg bones, lumbar spine and pelvic bone (which I refer to as the "Power of the pelvic floor"). The importance of lengthening the muscles between the neck and pelvic bones, The importance of freeing the head upon the neck are also clear from the illustrations. This information also shows why it is important to:
  • Stand or sit tall (like you do with your back to a wall)
  • Stand or sit flexibly (as when you dance or feel the groove)
  • Don't stiffen legs, ribcage or neck
  • Think of the diaphragm as a space invader and stay the heck out of it's way. Allow the diaphragm to have a wide, flexibly suspended area at the bottom of the ribcage and let it support and control the breath naturally with no conscious manipulation. (also ... see note below)
  • Correct, tall and open (not slouched) posture, weight balanced at the tailbone, allows for the correct sense of power coming from the pelvic floor.
  • A silent, deep and wide (but not huge) breath which you let "fall in" instead of trying to "suck in", allows the correct inhale. Open nose mouth and torso and air will rush in to fill the vacuum created in the chest.

One note of difference: In my personal and teaching experience, I have found it universally better to inhale through both nose AND mouth... not just the nose. Most people tend to suck air in too high when trying to get air in only through the nasal passages. There are times when a person needs to focus on the nose, especially if sinuses feel stuffy, but it is imperitive to ALLOW BREATH TO FALL IN instead of sucking it in. Notice that Ron Murdock also mentions this in his article.

I have found that if you pay attention to just one small area in the upper spine, about an inch below the shoulder blades, you can cause the chest to open and the diaphragm to have the correct "tonus". Put your hand behind your back and press this area forward. You should notice an automatic inhale, caused by the opening of the chest. Keep this point flexible and forward (as it would be with you standing against a wall) when you sing, and the chest will not collapse. You must be careful not to allow your lower back to become "sway-back" when doing this... the lumbar spine should stay steady, tailbone tucked a bit inward. Flexible knees should make this happen. This is why feeling the groove in your spine and legs is so important.

Another issue this article doesn't address (though I've received a comment from Ron and he agrees) is the importance of having "life" in your arms and hands, to keep them from causing the chest to collapse, as I discussed in a recent post.

My next post will compare my "path to the open throat" to the Alexander technique. Your thoughts, as always, are most welcome. Is this post interesting to you? Do you undertand it? lemme know by clicking "comment".