Support, Breathing and Phonation – Part 6

Phonation and Support

Before continuing, this is a very, very basic approach into it, the idea is to allow you to feel how it’s like to produce a well supported note while coordinating your breathing to do it.

The training goes further, and there are other aspects for support to happen properly when the energy demands are higher. Still, the fundamental idea is the same, so work this one carefully and aim to do exactly what is said.

To begin, you absolutely need the circular breathing control I mentioned before. If you still can’t do that, go back as many steps as necessary, and figure it out. Don’t cheat, the movement must really feel as one thing, and you must control the tempo at will.

Now, AFTER the control is present and the movement is continuous, do it without the metronome, and just pay attention to the moment you go from inhale to exhale, and slow down during it. Slowing down will probably prove to be more difficult, but no matter, just do it. Notice the sensation, it’s a kind of “stall”, a “pause”, however you want to call it. The thing is, muscles remain active.

Do it again, while plugging your ears, breathing silently, notice that the feeling becomes even stronger. Work on this for a while, and map it down well.

After you get it well-defined in your head, keep your ears plugged, do the same circular breathing motion a few times, and then, when you are confident it’s going on fine, you will start humming on MMM, at the EXACT MOMENT the coordination begins to change into exhale. So when you reach the “pause” area, you begin the MMM.

This M, in its turn, should be spoken quality, and low on the voice. Thinking of MEE may help. Also, when you begin the sound of MMM, don’t let changes happen to the position you get from “silent breathing”. You mouth and throat should feel the same, just close your mouth and begin the sound.

And do it just once. Then relax, repeat the whole thing. Go back to the reference as many times as necessary. Remember, this is coordination, the key thing here is timing, the attack on the MMM should be at the exact same moment you begin exhaling.

Notice that doing this, you will get a SLIGHT sensation of that “stall”/”pause” through the whole time you are making the MMM, you will also feel that your whole body is working to produce the note, instead of just neck up. This sensation, means that the coordination is now involving your breathing too, and at least at this point in the range, this is how support will feel like.

It should be easy and comfortable to produce the note in this manner, and you should achieve a good volume without a problem.

Unfortunately, this is also where the teacher interference starts to become really important. Record yourself and pay attention if:

– Your timing is precise between starting to release air/attack of the note;
– Your breathing is well-regulated and you are following the idea of the previous posts;
– Your humming is not breathy;
– Your humming is not pressed;
– It should ALWAYS be comfortable;
– You may feel you are working more for it, and indeed you are. But you should not feel anything on your throat. If there is effort there so low on the range, most likely there is something wrong going on. Make sure that you are coming from the silent breathing coordination.

Having this sensation, the little “stall”, “pause”, “body envolvement”, however it feels for you defined and under control, practice doing the circular motion exercises and keeping it through the whole time you are releasing air. But relax when inhaling.

But how does this help you support? Why does this help regulating the flow?

Well this is one form of organizing it, the most common one also, appoggio, support, apoio, depends on the language.

The idea is always offering some resistance to the release of air. This way you can use larger breaths without fearing overpowering the attack (larger does not mean chocking with excessive air), and you can control the flow of air by means of this resistance and the exhalation muscles (they oppose each other), so instead of worrying about [i]when[/i] to engage the abdominal muscles, they are already pushing a bit

And keep it dynamic, if necessary, go back to the circular breathing reference and get the sensation of “stall/pause/suspension” again, it should be slight, and you should be able to gauge the amount. Remember, its about control, not force.


Support, Breathing and Phonation – Part 5

Circular breathing

Once the control of both coordinations is coming along well, its time to put things back together. There are many forms to do this, I believe this is one of the easier ways to do it, and also develops a more intuitive control.

This will be already setting the stage for phonation, so before doing it, we will make sure that there are no constrictions happening from the neck up, go in front of a mirror and:

– Slide down your hands on your cheeks, as if your face were melting down, let your jaw hang loose while you do it;
– After your jaw is relaxed, plug your ears with both hands;
– Breath a few times, and notice if you can hear any sound while doing it. Most likely, you will hear your breathing in your head, a rasping, kind of like the Darth Vader sound;
– Slowly move on the direction of a yawn, keeping everything relaxed, literally find a way to make it silent;
– Map this very well so that you can do at will.

Notice that by doing this previous step, you will already move on the direction of the first exercise on inhaling.

Now, for the really fun part.

Your goal is to inhale and exhale at a steady pace, but. Make it continuous. Don’t let the coordination stop to then continue, think of circular motion.

Only now, while exhaling, DON’T use any sounds, no sibilance.

You will:
– Inhale at a steady pace until a comfortable capacity is reached;
– Immediately start exhaling in a release motion;
– Keep exhaling for nearly the same amount of time you took to inhale;
– Keep exhaling at a constant rate (this will require you to regulate how much air is going out);
– Exhale the normal comfortable capacity completely, you must release the same amount you inhaled.

After you can do this well, and there are no flips or hiccups when going from inhale to exhale (think of a circular motion, a pendulum, you can even wave your hand from side to side to help you getting the idea):

– Let your jaw hang;
– Plug your ears;
– Repeat the process making all the breathing silent;

Now you will notice the coordination becomes much more difficult without constrictions to help, and that without producing unnecessary sounds, its much more difficult to gauge the amount of air going out.

Finally, you will place the metronome at 60 bpm, and will do this exercise taking 4 beats to inhale and 4 beats to exhale, repeating it in a cycle. You can then vary the amount of time and the proportions, 5/5, 7/7, 9/9, 4/3, 3/4, etc…

Keeping it circular, and keeping it totally silent (ears plugged).

You will probably also notice that MANY of the sensations we normally associate with breathing, have nothing to do with the fundamental coordination, but instead with the habitual constrictions that allow us to feel the flow of air.

So the goal here is:
– Letting go of these habits that are totally unnecessary;
– Training the coordination to work in a much more efficient and independent manner;
– Replicate it at will.

Notice that now we are moving towards the idea of support, it’s already a regulated release of air. But in the manner we are doing now, the pressure we can use depends on the length we want to sustain. Not that useful.

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?

Support, Breathing and Phonation – Part 3


Our breathing system is comprised by, the upper airways:

Nose, Mouth, Pharynx, Larynx (section above the folds).

And lower airways:

Larynx (section bellow the folds), Trachea, Bronchus and Lungs.

The lungs are complex and have a lot to it, but I believe its not necessary to detail it more than that. The lungs are NOT empty sacs of flesh though.

During inhaling the following happens:

The lungs are in equal pressure with the outside air;

The vocal folds open to allow the air inside;

The diaphragm contracts, depressing into the abdominal cavity;

The abdominal contents are compressed, this bulges the anterior abdominal wall (your belly);

The external intercostals, and some fibers of the internal intercostals contracts, expanding the ribcage;

On more demanding situations, accessory muscles like the Sternocleidomastoid and the Scalene muscles contract, expanding the very upper part of the ribcage;

All these actions, cause the volume of thoracic cavity increase, decreasing the internal pressure;

This decreases the internal pressure of the lungs in relation to the open air;

The result is airflow, filling up the lungs, and balancing the pressure with the outside air again;

Breathing is a function of our bodies that is both part of the autonomous system, as well as can be controlled at will. And due to several social and psychological factors, its normal to have the habitual use of accessory muscle coordination more than the primary functions.

Its not like you don’t use your diaphragm. No, the diaphragm is always participating (if you are healthy, there are conditions where the diaphragm is paralyzed).

But rather, its use is minimized, as well as that of the intercostal muscles. The reason is simple, expanding the ribcage upwards will prevent the belly from coming out, and will keep the lower area of the thorax relatively small. This fits better the aesthetic expectation of the society, at least on the mind of the person.

So the first step, is getting out of your own way. To do so, lets fool your body:

Idea 1:

– Take a piece of paper, and spray your favorite perfume on it;
– Release the air you have currently;
– Smell the paper, focus on feeling the fragrance and identifying well the scent;
– Repeat it a few times keeping your focus on the fragrance;
– After a few repetitions, do it again but pay attention on how you are drawing in the air to do the task;
– If your belly is coming out slightly, if your ribcage expands/opens, and, there is no clavicular or shoulder movement, this is what using the primary muscles feel like.

Idea 2:

– Again, release all the air inside you;
– This time, hold it out, don’t inhale back;
– Keep holding until you get the sensation of air hunger;
– After the urge to inhale builds up a bit, just let it happen, don’t try to inhale, simply let your body do what it wants;
– Notice how the reflex quickly draws air in, you will feel a displacement downwards, and some expansion of the ribcage to the sides, also the primary muscles in action.

These are references. Repeating this will not develop control.

To develop control:

– Do one of the references that works best for you (you can even search for other references if you feel these are not helping);
– NOTICE how the action of the muscles feels like;
– After you are secure about it, try to replicate it at will;
– Go back to the reference from time to time, to make sure you are doing it properly;

After you can replicate it with some ease, do exercises inhaling in this manner:

– Get a metronome at 60 bpm, and inhale during the count of 4;
– Vary the metronome speed, and practice slower and faster inhale motions;
– Aim to make the movement smooth and constant;
– Notice that controlling your breath in this manner is very relaxing.

I must caution that if you have low blood pressure, doing these exercises may make you a bit dizzy. So if its your case, its best to have someone around you, or at least in the house with you, in the first times you attempt it in the case you pass out (some people do).

Support, Breathing and Phonation – Part 2

BEFORE getting into how to do it , a small question and answer exercise, to understand better the point of view I am coming from:

Is breathing important to singing?

Is breathing the only thing that matters on singing?

If I train my breathing, will I be an awesome singer right away?

If I don’t train my breathing, does it means that I wont be able to sing great?
That depends on what you are defining as *great*. And depends on the style. But most likely, you wont perform as well as you could.

Can I train my breathing apart from voicing?

Can I improve my singing just by doing breathing exercises?

Is support important to singing?

Is support the only thing that is important on singing?

Can I sing healthily without properly supporting?

Is there only one way to properly support?

Is the way to support all kinds of singing the same?

What is support?
Proper airflow and pressure for the phonation being produced.

So Is supporting pushing down?

So is supporting pushing to the sides?

So is supporting inhaling the sound?

So is supporting holding back the air?

Is support a sensation of expanding the back?

Is support a sensation of expanding my belly?

Is support a sensation of pressure inside?

Why are those things mentioned often?
Those things may produce the result intended, of regulating the airflow, but they are NOT the result.

Can I train support apart from phonation?

So why do singers do exercises for support without voicing?
You can work on the coordination of breathing, but support itself can not happen without phonation. If there is no sound being produced, there is no adequate flow to happen.

Can my larynx regulate the flow instead?

So why bothering?
If it’s doing two tasks at the same time will lead to forcing.

But, but, I was told my problem is not breathing!
Check the previous answers, it’s not exclusive, and by far not the only aspect to work.

But babies produce loud high-pitched sounds without training!
Yes, they are also one of the most annoying things to listen to.

But aren’t they supporting?

If babies can support naturally why can’t I?
You are not a baby. And hopefully you are not crying. This is about singing.

So what is the difference from adults to babies?
The babies larynx still did not come down, and their cry is a reflexive response.

So in a situation of reflexive response, do I support properly?
Most likely, yes.

Why not use that?
Reflexes do not happen at will, takes a situation of stress, or excitement. So its unreliable.

So its useless?
No, it can be used to learn the coordination, one of the best possible references actually.

So I hope you understood this is not about a magical solution. With that in mind, we will begin on the next part to talk about the coordination itself.

Support, Breathing and Phonation – Part 1

A general look into phonation:

What happens when we say a vowel, AH for example:

From the point of view of the speaker, and the process you do consciously, your answer will be probably: I just say it. Indeed that’s all you *will* to do it.

However, to “just say it”, the following process happens.

The vocal folds open;

The diaphragm contracts and descends, since its separating your abdominal cavity from your thorax, the thorax space increases, and this lowers the internal pressure of your body;

Muscles on your thorax and neck contracts and expand the rib cage, also expanding the thorax and lowering the pressure further;

The air flows inside you, filling up your lungs. When this happens, the pressure inside you is again in balance with the outside air;

The vocal folds come together;

Your jaw opens;

Your lips open;

Your tongue is lowered towards the floor of the mouth, and moves backwards;

The soft palate lifts and closes the nasal port;

The diaphragm relaxes and the ribcage collapses, this makes the thorax space smaller again, and the pressure inside you higher than the outside;

Air pressure is therefore applied against the vocal folds;

The vocal folds keep just enough tension so that small pulses of air are released periodically, but no so much to halt the release of air completely;

Different balances of tensions and lung pressures will result in a different mechanical register. The possible registers are M0 (fry), M1(modal voice, full voice), M2(falsetto, head voice*), M3(whistle);

The resonance of the vocal tract, set by the space on the pharynx, mouth and lips, amplifies certain harmonics from the base sound produced by the folds;

The harmonics that are reinforced by the resonance result in the vowel we hear, those are known as formants;

The formants that are more meaningful for vowel perception are F1,F2 and F3, the first three in the series and they correlate to pharynx, mouth and lip space, respectively.


So you see that “just saying” AH is a complex coordination, and this is a very rough description. There is more, for example articulators we are not using to coordinating, etc.


*male full head voice is done on register M1

Consider then the role of breathing:

As it was said, it’s where the process begins, by the inhale of air. And its the air that will provide the power to the instrument.

Also, notice that the control of registration involves lung pressure, and therefore, air flow.

I will add more information now:

The higher the pitch, the more pressure is necessary;
The higher the pressure, the louder the volume;

Also, there is one very important thing about our larynx. You see, the larynx is a very capable “device”.

Whatever you attempt to do, it will try to find a way to do it. It’s the central part of phonation control. This means that it will effectively COMPENSATE for whatever you do that is not optimal. From breathing to resonance.

Although this is great during speech and other less demanding tasks, on singing it will lead to forcing and even hurting the soft tissue/vocal ligament. Get used to it, and your chances of developing a chronic abuse situation is high.

There is one concept in technique known as attractor states (which comes from dynamic analysis). The idea is that on complex systems, the global state of the system will gravitate towards a usual setting, and will persist being so.

Attractor states is one of the reasons different people have different points of difficulty and also why some people seem to get it so easily. It also means it’s very easy to get used to a not optimal, or even poor, coordination without noticing there is something incorrect about it.

Breathing is your source of power. A stable and precise flow of air is necessary to make phonation efficient and use the absolutely minimal muscular effort for a given result. The larynx role during phonation is to produce sound, if it also becomes responsible for regulating the flow, you will be effectively compensating for a poor coordination of your breathing.

And that’s the definition of support:

Using an adequate pressure and flow for a given phonation, whatever that phonation is.

However, also notice that what I am talking about is developing coordination, improving it. It’s not about “singing from the diaphragm”, it’s not about forcing down, up, it’s not about holding back.

I say this because I see a lot of people making claims about how support is a “technique” that can fix all your issues and lead to “superior” quality. This denotes lack of background and even proper control of the concept.

So I will break down the process of inhaling and exhaling, and I will suggest approaches for training and improvement based on that, also some common techniques used to organize it. As always, training of these aspects is best done with a teacher that is familiar with the fundamentals.


Need new vocal exercises to fix your voice problem?  Probably the most important concept I want you to understand is that simply “practicing more” isn’t always the answer to getting better.

Many people go around YouTube hunting for “vocal exercises” to improve their singing. But did you know that it doesn’t matter what exercises you do if you don’t do them properly?

Whenever I get an email from a struggling singer the first thing I notice is that they aren’t doing their exercises properly.

They learn support, vowel placement, scales etc. but they don’t learn those things PROPERLY.

I believe that is the key.

So I have made a video going more into depth on this subject. If there’s one thing you need to know about me it is this:

My main focus is on getting singers to understand how to do things properly. How to get into the right coordination that will grow the voice. That’s why I chose that name for my website. Enjoy the video!

Vocal Technique Methods

Still after all these years?

You have heard all the names, explored all the options, been floored by
all celebrities, etc..

But yet something doesn’t work for you.. You do all the exercises, follow
all the directions and still have a problem with your G4 your A4… What’s
the deal?

Well I’m here to tell ya!!! You need to study my method!!!!!

Now I would just be another Teacher trying to sell you my “method” if I
did that..

That is not what this article is going to be about.  I’m going to tell you
why I personally don’t believe and have never followed a “method”.  Now, I
have a lot of friends that teach a method or sell a method and they are
all good at what they do.  So this article is for the singer’s that try
method’s but still end up confused.

I’m going to be quick so pay attention.

The voice is about balance.  Balance in resonation,  balance in cord
closure,  balance in vowel color,  balance in breath flow,  balance of
intensity.  Methods choose to be dominant in a certain area  “head voice
method”   ‘”chest voice method”,   “cord closure method”  “easy onset
method’, “appoggio method” “crying method” etc.. They all have their own
specific goto which worked for them when they were learning.. Now the
problem is “when they were learning”  not you,  but them specifically..

Sorry but that is it. 🙂 You see, a chest voice dominant program might
work if you’re young.  The instrument is young and can handle this but in
time could cause problems,  Just as a head voice dominant program might
work for an older heavy speaking singer but not for a young soft spoken

As a teacher I listen to the speech and the attitude of the singer and
then create a methodology for him or her specifically.. This is the
problem with programs.  They give the same exercises to whomever is
studying.  Which I believe is harmful to the singer.  a quick easy way to
look at this would be, one singer squeezes and presses his way to the top
and the other singer flips early all the way to the top,  and my “method”
teaches them the same.  That is a deal breaker right there….

We all have different attitudes and speech habits which in turn effect our
voice.. Each voice needs to be taught personally.  Until the student
understands the specific purpose of each exercise and can determine what
he or she needs at a specific time in their growth as a singer.  From
there, they can teach themselves,  which I believe to be the most

Have a good one!!

How to Belt High Notes Safely

Ever wondered how to belt high notes safely?  It is a question I get often, and being a belter myself I love to answer it.  I feel it is never really covered properly in the myriad of articles and YouTube videos.  Especially the importance of minimizing excessive vocal tract shifting, which is absolutely crucial, otherwise you’ll just choke on tough vowels and consonants.

I wrote an article detailing the necessary ingredients for belting and you can find it here.

Written by Phil Moufarrege