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Developing Breath Awareness

It takes a lot of time for singers to learn proper breathing, but not because it's a novel action; we all breathe constantly, but most people haven't ever really thought about how they do it. It's automatic, and thank goodness for that; imagine how insane we'd become if we had to think about every single breath we take. In daily life, breathing ignorance is bliss. Not so for singers, however — at least during singing. For us, every breath is intentional and measured, especially in the early portion of our training. If we persevere, however, we develop beneficial muscle memory, and our breathing technique becomes quite natural, if not totally automatic.

The first step to learning singers' breathing is to spend a few minutes every day simply relaxing while focusing on how it feels to breathe in and out. At this stage, don't worry about "doing it right"; just pay attention to the feeling. The best way to do this, in my opinion, is to do it while lying in bed, just before sleep, as you're likely to be relaxed and comfortable then.

Lie on your back and breathe slowly and deeply. Where do you feel your body expanding as the air flows in? You're going to feel that expansion in your belly, sides and lower back; notice that your shoulders aren't moving, and your upper chest is still. It like you've become a giant balloon: your throat, shoulders and upper chest are the neck of the balloon, and your abdomen, sides and lower back are the round body of that balloon. Notice something else, also: your breaths are completely silent, because your throat is totally free and open.

During this exercise you are, in fact, breathing like a sleeping infant, and that's the point. Babies are the best "singers" in the world! Think about how long a baby can cry on a single breath, and how much volume and projection is in the sound. A single nine-pound baby can annoy an entire jumbo jet full of passengers! Guess what else: babies don't get hoarse, breathy or vocally fatigued. They don't carry tension in their shoulders, throats and jaws because they're not stressed out, carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders as many adults are. Babies have perfect technique. We need to get ourselves some o' dat.

MUCH more on breathing coming soon.

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