Breathe Better: Everything You Need to Know

Thursday, December 17, 2020
England, UK

Everyone. Repeat, everyone needs a little breath-work in their daily life. Whether you're an advanced singer or completely new to it, breath is your centre, your grounding and your best support. This blog post is all about breathing better so if that sounds like your vibe, stick around – maybe give this post a share, and subscribe for more singing tips!

Before we get there, this is my first blog post on this site, so allow me to introduce myself! Don't care who I am, just want the tips? Ouch. But fair enough, scroll down for all the exercises.

My name is Hannah Ost...

I'm a vocal coach, with a background in musical directing youth theatre. I've worked in the UK and the US, teaching singing to students from 3-53 years old! A notable achievement of mine was working as a Music Assistant to Andrew Lippa (composer of The Addams Family, Big Fish, The Wild Party) at the Royal Festival Hall, London. I also hold a degree in Linguistics, which focuses on speech and sound production – so I'm able to bring a new level of technical practice to my lessons!

My main specialism is teaching children and beginner singers. My students know by-heart my motto, 'Anyone Can Sing' (yes, 'tis I – the vocal coach version of Ratatouille's Chef Gusteau.) I love the look of surprise on people's faces when they first sustain accurate pitch or feel the freedom of expression in using their unique voice.

So, let's begin learning to sing together, with a couple of my favourite breathing techniques for singers. If you'd like a more visual demonstration that's more kid-friendly too, I make a series called Mindful Music Monday for Hannah's Homeroom IGTV. Check it out here!

Breathing Tip #1: Surprise!

Ah, the surprise party breath – a classic in my classes. Imagine you have just walked into a pitch dark room when all of a sudden the lights flash on and your eyes adjust to see everyone you love filling the space! Your jaw falls open. Raising your eyebrows in shock, you give a noiseless intake of breath. That there, that's the surprise party breath. It should feel nice and open at the back of the throat. No need to force a cartoonish gasping sound! It's a subtle, I'm-speechless-omg-you-guys kind of breath. Almost as open as a yawn!

Breathing Tip #2: Zzzzzz....

Speaking of yawning, one of the best exercises to practice this open breathing is to yawn. And no, not a pretty 'I'm-in-a-meeting-and-don't-want-people-to-know-I'm-not-actually-a-machine' yawn. A really open yawn, followed by a long sigh. Optional: accompany this with a stretch. There are no added vocal benefits (other than perhaps muscular release) but mainly, it just feels good.

The science behind the breath!

Both of these techniques will lower the larynx (sometimes called the voice box). The larynx houses the vocal cords/folds, which vibrate to produce sound. When you breathe in, air passes through the larynx on the way to the lungs. Lowering the larynx creates more space in the pharynx (often just called the throat) for a healthier, fuller resonance/sound. While there are techniques which require a higher larynx (some styles of rock singing for example or a belting technique), knowing how to lower your larynx is a skill that will help you stabilise your voice, especially when you're just starting out.

So now you know. With just two simple exercises, you've learnt how to breathe better! In the next blog post, we'll be talking about posture, so stick around to learn how to support that breath in the best way.

Sing soon (get it?! It's like speak soon... but we're singing... I'll see myself out.)

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