If you’ve ever had singing lessons, or even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard an awful lot about breath support. Some teachers will devote your whole first lesson – or more – to breathing, before you even sing a note. You may hear about the diaphragm, abdominal breathing, and be given many exercises to help you expel more air. I’ve been pulled by my arms, pushed against walls and laid flat on the floor, among others.
The truth is, it’s all nonsense. No… don’t stop reading. I can prove it!
The vocal cords are tiny. They’re about the size of your thumb nail bed, and they’re only very delicate tissues. If you employ all the breathing techniques advocated by the average singing teacher, squeezing your butt and expelling air from your lungs by pushing with all your abdominal and lower back muscles, your vocal cords will not be able to cope with all that air. Result? Instead of resisting the air and enabling you to sing a note, they’ll blow right open and all you’ll expel is air. If you’re trying to sing a note, it will crack.
All told, you can expel 2000 watts of air if you try really hard. Your vocal cords can withstand 2 watts. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is overkill!
Here’s the bottom line. If you can breathe well enough to talk (and stay alive) you can breathe well enough to sing. Speaking and singing are essentially the same anatomical process – when you speak you are hitting multiple notes, but at such a high speed that your ear doesn’t register them as musical tones – and it’s very rare to run out of breath while speaking, unless you’re getting very excited about something!
At The Voice Club, we never teach breath support because it simply isn’t necessary for training voices. Moreover, we find that singers who have been trained in breath support have more physical tension issues (which stand in the way of a healthy, balanced voice) than other singers who haven’t.
If your voice is well-trained and in balance, your body knows exactly how much air it needs to send up the windpipe for each note you sing. It’s a simple case of muscle memory – the more you sing in a balanced way, the more familiar your body is with the sequence of events needed to create sound in singing.
If you’re ready to start finding your vocal potential, come and train with me at The Voice Club. We offer private coaching and group classes to singers of all ages and abilities. Or, if you have a specific question about your voice, email me directly.