Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Fine Art of Breathing: Make Your Voice a Masterpiece!

The one thing that we all do daily is breathe. It’s a necessary part of our existence and we all do it the same way. Or do we? Those of us in the performance arts have learned that proper breathing is essential to giving a great performance. Read on to learn how proper breathing technique can improve your performance.

When it comes down to it, breathing control directly affects vocal control. To have full range of all the nuances your voice, you must have full use of your lungs. Like a painter uses different brushes and strokes for effect in creating his art, you need to develop that same type of control with your breathing. In order for you to create your masterpiece of vocal sound, you need to develop your breathing technique.

One of the ways you can improve your performance breathing is to learn to do it properly. This involves actively using your diaphragm muscles in your abdomen. Some people call this “middle breathing” as your stomach will move in and out as opposed to using your chest or shoulders (considered chest breathing or shallow breathing). Here’s how it works.

Sit up straight in your chair and place your hands in your lap with your palms resting against your lower abdomen. Sit in a natural “attentive” position with your head up as if you are gazing across the room. While holding this position breath in slowly and deeply through your nose and inhale as fully as possible. While you are inhaling, imagine you are filling a balloon with water. The water goes straight to the bottom of the balloon and expands out while it fills up. You should be able to see your hands moving out as your lower lungs fill with air. Pay attention that your chest and shoulders stay in their normal position during your inhale.

When you have inhaled as fully as possible hold your breath for a second or two and then slowly exhale through your mouth. Part your lips just enough to allow the air to escape. Use your diaphragm muscles to push the air out by slowly contracting them and pulling your stomach in. Imagine you are now squeezing the water back out of the balloon from the bottom up. You will see your hands slowly pulling in toward your pelvis. Continue your slow squeeze until you have completely exhaled every bit of air you can from your lungs.

Congratulations! You have now completed your first controlled breath! You should practice your controlled breathing several minutes daily. This exercise is very effective for several reasons: As your lung capacity improves so does your abdominal strength. This also has a positive effect on your vocal cords. There will be less vocal strain simply because you have more air and greater breathing control.

You can hear how effective your breathing control is by making simple sounds (like, la, so, fa, do, etc.) during the exhale part of the exercise. You can control and vary your sound by how slowly or forcefully you exhale. Any variations you do will improve your control as long as you remember to breathe from the diaphragm! So take a deep breath, practice your controlled breathing and wow your producer at your next VO performance!

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