Breathe Easy

Vocal Tips

By: Claudia Johnson

Vocal coaches always talk about breathing from the diaphragm. This is correct of course but can be very confusing to singers, especially new singers.

Vocal coaches always talk about breathing from the diaphragm. It might make more sense to say breath from your lower abdomen. Concentrating on muscles that you can feel and flex (the abdominal and intercostal muscle groups) as opposed to an involuntary muscle (the diaphragm) may help you achieve the deep breath all singers should have. Try inhaling so that your stomach expands out and then comes back in as your exhale. This type of breath engages the diaphragm and gives you full support for pitch, resonance, and sustain. As always, a trained vocal coach will help you find your proper breath placement so seek out a professional!

As we come into the drier winter months and begin to heat our homes we can overlook and underestimate the effect that this has on our voices. The drop in humidity alone has a marked effect on our bodies. Add to that a home filled with even drier heated air and perhaps some cold and flu medicines and you’re looking at some seriously dehydrated vocal chords.

It is important to properly humidify your home during the winter so as to avoid overly dried out mucous membranes, i.e. your vocal chords. In addition to keeping your voice nice and lubricated you’ll also be keeping your nasal passages clear and this will avoid mucous buildup, which leads to getting a cold or the flu.

Aside from these small steps, it is proper technique and maintenance that will truly keep your voice flourishing all year long. Weekly sessions with your voice coach will help you stay on top of your game and provide you with the extra ears you need to catch those vocal health problems before they get out of hand. Do what many other Skyelab recording artists have done and come see us at TrueVoiceNYC to keep your voice sounding professional no matter what.

1. The Importance of Daily Vocal Warm-up

A ten-minute daily vocal warm-up is the ideal way to keep “in shape”, especially if that is all you can fit into the day. Of course working your daily exercises for endurace and growth and to increase vocal abilities is part of the “job”, the daily 10-minute warm-up will keep your vocals activated and remind you to breathe like a vocalist for the day!

2. Nervous? Breathe!

If you’re performing live or in the studio, nerves can often get the best of us. The best way to take control of your performance is to breathe more! The problem arises, when the body’s natural reaction to stress is to start quick, short intakes of breath. This, in turn, increases blood pressure and creates dehydration throughout the body, but mostly in the mouth!. To take control, start by slowly taking a very deep breath into your lower abdomen. Begin breathing through your nose and mentally count to 15. Once you’ve reached a 15 count, hold the breath for 3 seconds and then slowly release the breath through your mouth for another slow count of 15.

This will help to calm the glands in your body that release stress hormones and will decrease blood pressure. After a few more slow deep breaths, the body’s muscles (especially those in the neck) will loosen from the increase in oxygen. Soon, your anxiety level will begin to diminish and you’ll be singing confidently again.

3. Spring time recommendations

The arrival of Spring brings with it allergies and dryness. for the Vocalist this can mean the difference between a successful or a frustrating recording session. Many vocalists don’t even realize what is happening to them and they may experience an increase in Phlemb or a raspiness that wasn’t there before. They may also discover an annoying little tickle that continues throughout the day. Well singers, welcome to spring.

The average person may not find this quite as disturbing as the singer because they don’t rely on their voice or depend upon it to perform at its absolute best at all times. Besides allergies becoming heightened at this time, dehydration is almost an absolute and therefore must be attended to. To cut back on mild allergies, keeping your home as dust free as possible and perhaps purchasing allergy free pillows, you should also consider a Neti pot. A Neti pot is a small porcelain pot to help cleans the sinus passages. Used daily (sometimes both morning and night if allergies worsen ) it can alleviate some of the congestion and actually minimize discomfort and also support clear passages in order to avoid the common cold or sinus infection which is almost always a risk especially during spring when our immune systems are compromised.

The other factor, hydration is also at risk at this time. The constant fluctuation of the temperature and heating units in our home make it almost impossible to keep hydrated. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of room temperature water (room temperature water is absorbed into your body much more easily than cold water), coupled with a diet of water-rich foods can substantially enhance water absorption in the body therefore, assuring rehydration. Water-rich vegetables such as mixed green salads with fresh veggies with an Olive Oil and lemon juice dressing (stay away from Vinegars – they are fermented and drying), as well as water rich fruits; watermelon, cantalope , grapes, papaya, Asian pears, pears will not only increase your water intake but will allow the room temperature water to be absorbed more completely because water needs natural sugar molecules to be absorbed more fully. Of course, if allergies are impossible to handle you may need to take medications, remember these can be incredibly drying so it is up to you to protect and care for your instrument.

4. Snooze so you don’t lose!

REST for the vocalist – Rest is incredibly important for vocal health. In many cases, Laryngitis is directly related to fatigue. It is easily avoided by simply getting more sleep as well as finding a way to relax. If you are having trouble sleeping, you might need to look at your daily stress level as well as your eating habits. If stress is keeping you awake, try meditation, yoga or even getting a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day.

Utilize your body during the day and it will look to regenerate at night. In addition, try not to eat after 7pm in the evening, or consider that you will need about 4 hours to digest before going to sleep. Stay away from spicy and heavy sauces, try to eat “clean” by having a salad prior to your cooked food and stay with a light sauce. Keep in mind, that meat takes a considerable amount of time to digest (in some cases 2 or more days). Stay with easily digestible food like whole grains and steamed vegetables, fish and poultry.

Included in the discussion of getting more rest, stay away from large quantities of alcohol. A glass of wine is fine with dinner, but large quantities will cause your body to go into dehydration mode as well as keep you from restful sleep. Make sure before you have a session for recording scheduled you get rest, hydrate and stay away from alcohol. Optimize your recording session by being as physically prepared as possible.

5. Working The “Song”

After your warm up – work your current songs by going through the Map of the song; marking your breath, hearing difficult intervals in the melody and figuring out where to go vocally to achieve success. Get a hold of the lead sheet for the song and begin to dissect the music. Understand what key the song is in and what key you need to sing it in. Understand what the melody is doing, and consider how you might want to change the melody to make it more “yours”.

Integrate some exercises to support any areas of your song that are challenging. If the songs melody takes you into the lower end of your vocal range, focus working on depth vocal exercises within that range. For melodies that are jumping into other registers or are simply jumping around, try incorporating some wide interval exercises in your vocal practice. Having your exercises work along with your song study can be an incredibly helpful tool in excelling vocally, and significantly reduce the time it takes for you to master your song.

SkyeLab Clients get a FREE, 30-minute lesson. You’d be crazy not to take them up on this free offer. But it’s for a limited time only, and can be revoked at any time. So if you’re serious about improving your voice, NOW is the best time!!!!! Contact us to set up your Free lesson.

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