Support, Breathing and Phonation – Part 4


Time to release air. It’s during this phase that we sing (normally).

During exhaling the muscles we use to inhale relax. As a result the thoracic space becomes smaller, increasing the internal pressure in relation to the outside.

The result is flow of air from the lungs, outwards.

After a certain point, just relaxing the primary inhale muscles is not enough. At this moment, another group of muscles on the abdominal wall, and the internal intercostal muscles contract.

The contents of the abdominal cavity are pressed inside, applying pressure against the diaphragm, which in its turn further compress the thoracic cavity. The rib cage is also further compressed.

The exhale phase therefore has a passive and an active part. On the passive part, all you do is relax, and the elastic recoil of the tissue is enough to provide pressure. On the active part, muscle action is present, creating pressure and releasing the rest of the air.

Notice that we don’t actually release ALL air in the lungs. There is always an amount of reserve air, otherwise the lungs would collapse. It’s possible to train to use part of this reserve air on singing too, but this is not the goal here.

To feel this happen:

– Inhale a good amount of air, in the manner you trained in the last section;
– Just release it, don’t push it out, think of a sigh of disappointment;
– Repeat it, but this time, use a ssss sound to help you noticing the coordination (it will last longer);
– Notice that by just relaxing it out, the Ssss starts to become weaker at the end;
– Repeat it, this time, aim to keep the Ssss at the same intensity until the end;
– Repeat it once more, but this time to it very strongly, notice that the muscles help right from the start now.

Practice this until you get a good hand of how the exhaling process feels like, notice your abdominal wall coming in when releasing air, and the tendency of the rib cage to collapse.

After you get it going, again with the metronome at 60 bpm, exercise controlling this release in sss for a given period of time, you can set it to whatever you want, 10 to 15 seconds is a good amount of time to begin.

Aim to release a clear sss, moderately loud, and aim to make its sound stable and consistent through the exercise.

For now, begin the release relaxing. And sustain the initial intensity through the exercise. Notice that if you inhale more, the sss will begin louder, and that if you inhale less, the sss will be quieter. So the amount of air you inhale, will set how much recoil pressure you have initially.

Play around with different intensities. And notice how your muscles are engaged earlier as you aim for a more intense release. Think about it, and you will understand how support will require a very dynamic coordination.

What if you began a phrase with a very strong attack that you can’t do just on recoil pressure?

What if you began a phrase with a very soft quality where recoil pressure is too much?

About Felipe Carvalho

Singer and voice teacher in São Paulo - Brasil
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