In my Group Singing Class, held weekly on Wednesdays at 3:45 pm, we have been looking into the importance of proper posture and how it affects your breathing. Then, from a place of having proper posture, learning how to utilize your breath in an easy, relaxed manner to produce sound. Here is a great article from Voice Council going into more detail on the subject (to students; note the toothpaste metaphor as it was something I mentioned in class).
Sing with less muscle effort and sustain your voice for longer phrases.
I am going to focus on one neglected part of supporting, which is the pelvic musculature.
From the anatomical point of view, this support comes not only from the gradual contraction of the abdominal muscles (both the recti in the front and the obliques on either side), but also a sustained level of tone in the muscles in the floor of the pelvis—these are the muscles which lift the pelvic floor and also control the sphincters involved in excretion.
(These incidentally are the muscles that are strengthened by the Kegel exercises prescribed by the obstetrician.)
The Toothpaste Tube
Simplistically, think of the expelled breath (which flows past the vocal folds and powers the voice) as toothpaste, squeezed out of a tube.
You can of course squeeze out the toothpaste like kids do, by grabbing the tube in the middle and forcefully closing your hand.
But this is not the best way to get toothpaste out- it pushes only some of the stuff up through the nozzle.
Much of the energy is wasted in pushing the paste down the other way, toward the crimped end of the tube.
To get every last bit of the toothpaste out of the tube, you need to squeeze beginning at the bottom end of the tube, pushing all of the paste toward the nozzle, in a gradual and controlled fashion.
Breathing with Less Muscle Effort
Grabbing in the middle and squeezing corresponds to abdominal breathing with no support: it wastes muscle effort, lacks control, and only partially empties the lungs.
Contracting the abdominal muscles without pelvic floor support will push the abdominal contents in both directions- up (against the diaphragm, expelling the air from the lungs), but also down.
Pushing down is useful when going to the bathroom or giving birth, but not for singing!
The key to good support then is to maintain a degree of resting tone in the muscles of the pelvic floor while exhaling.
This directs the force of abdominal muscle contraction upward, allowing for maximal controlled emptying of the lungs.
Musically, this translates into singing with less muscle effort, the ability to sustain the voice for longer phrases, and also better control of sound intensity.
Anthony F. Jahn MD
Dr. Anthony F. Jahn is an internationally renowned otolaryngologist based in Manhattan with a subspecialty interest in the professional voice. His practice includes classical and popular singers. He holds academic appointments at Columbia University and Westminster Choir College in Princeton, and is Medical Director at the Metropolitan Opera and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Christopher Anderson-West is a conservatory trained operatic tenor and voice teacher currently living in Southern Orange County, California. Christopher is pleased to be working with Raise The Barre dance studio as a Vocal Instructor and teacher of a weekly class on Musicianship For Singers.
Christopher studied both voice and composition for five years at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has had the honor of performing in England, France, Italy, China, and around the United States.
As a voice teacher, Christopher’s method is primarily based on the operatic bel canto technique; meaning “beautiful singing”. This technique is currently employed in not only opera, but virtually every form of singing from Pop, to R&B, to Broadway and more … the principles can be carried over as a basis for just about any style of singing.
Christopher’s goal is to impart a healthy vocal technique that will allow you or your child to progress confidently into whatever field of music you or they enjoy.