Habits of the Singer – Part 1

Just Breathe

Have you ever done anything without even thinking about it? Is it something you do all the time? Then you would call that a “habit”….Is it something that you would rather not do? Then you would call that a “bad habit” and guess what? We all have them… Now, as singers, we probably have bad habits that we likely never notice, that is unless we have someone point them out to us.  Let’s take some time to look at some of the bad habits that are most common with singers and address some ways we can fix time before go from small bad habits to major vocal issues.

Now, the thought of breathing “incorrectly” may seem strange to some. It is something that we do without thinking from our first moments of life. In fact, without doing so, we would die.  With that, we would like to believe that we are all pretty good at that “simple” activity. Yet, without even knowing it, many of us put liitations on our ability to breathe in ways that are fairly easy to correct.

 

“Please Breathe in…”

When we are asked to take in a deep breath, our natural response is to ‘suck in’ and make ourselves draw in around our middles and be as skinny as possible. This may be what you are looking for when you want to impress someone with you “narrow” girth, but for vocalist/singers it defiantly is not what we want to happen. A result of pull everything in is all the muscles in your torso being restricted and keeping your lungs from doing what they are designed to do – breathing. Breathing in, we need to allow the lungs to expand as fully as possible, which ultimately makes us get fatter on the air, not thinner!

Singers Super Solution  - Lay down flat on your back with your arms at your sides. Place a book (a light one) at the bottom of your rib cage. When you are breathing in you want the book to be rising up slightly with the inhale, and dropping back down with each exhale.

No Shoulders up…

Often times we will see this erroneous side effect of us ‘trying’ to “breathe in.” We often think about getting as much air in as possible one thing our bodies do naturally is to raise our shoulders up towards our ears. This causes tension through the shoulders and upper back, and ultimately is not good for the breathing process. We want all these muscles to be as relaxed as possible so that what is happening underneath them can happen without any restriction.

Singers Super Solution  - Have someone to sit or stand behind you with his or her hands placed gently on your shoulders as you breathe. As you breathe in, if raise your shoulders get them to counter your movement by putting a bit of pressure on them. You probably don’t even know you’re doing it. After doing this a few times you become aware of your movement, you’ll be able to put a stop to it.

Now Hold it…

When we breathe, our lungs are restricted by the torso and ribcage. For our lungs to be as free as possible, we need to make sure that they are able to move in all directions. When we tense a specific muscle group we can restrict that movement of our lungs. What if a balloon was being blown up inside a small box. If the box is made of metal, the balloon doesn’t have much of chance of reaching its full capacity as it is limited by the box. However, if the box is made of flexible material, the balloon can continue to grow and expand, not limited by the restrictions of its surroundings. By tensing up muscles as we breathe (common culprits are the abdominals and the pectorals) we aren’t allowing our breathing apparatus to work to their fullest potential. Even holding your breath is easier when you’re not tensing all your muscles (try holding your breath as you normally would. Red faces and watering eyes will quickly follow with all the pressure you’re putting your body under. Then try just taking a properly deep breath and hold it feeling completely relaxed, not pushing or tensing anything. More air, less stress.)

Singers Super Solution  – Try breathing in as normal, and then once you have finished your inhale, try and take in some extra air. Feel the areas of tension and try to relax them and try again. Our lungs are usually working well under their capacity, and you will find that by allowing your muscles to relax and your diaphragm to work properly you can increase your air intake by surprisingly large amounts.

 

It may take a while to correct the things that we do without thinking about them. Eventually you want to get to where what comes naturally to you are deep, supported breaths.

If you want to study your breathing, watch yourself breathing in front of a mirror. Notice all movements, big or small of each part of your body. The only area you want to be seeing an obvious movement is in your abdomen. Any other areas that move show points of tension, which you will want to work on. Take note of where your problem areas are and make a point of paying attention to these. You can do this anywhere you find yourself- just be aware of your breathing and soon all these new habits will become second nature.

I Can’t Find Time to Practice!

If I’ve heard that statement once, I’ve heard it at least 100 times….With the busy schedules and lifestyles we keep these days, it is often a challenge to get your students to practice. Something that I started doing with my students, children, teens and adults, is just asking for six minutes a day. Now granted, only six minutes a day is not what I really want, but if they will sit down for six minutes, sometimes it will turn into 10 or 15 or even 20 minutes. Yay! Now if they only do the six minutes a day between lessons, at least they have given about 36 – 40 minutes to practicing…that is better than 0 minutes.

Gaining Confidence As A Singer

Confidence is one of the most important skills to have in you corner in order to offer your best presentation vocally. If you lack confidence, it is going to affect everything you endeavor to do. A lack of confidence will cause you to be tentative as you breathe, and we know that the power in our singing us fueled by proper breathing. What are some things that you can do to develop the confidence you need in order to be that singer that appears sure of themselves and gives a strong presentation of the songs they are singing? Here are some things to consider:

1. Review/learn proper breathing techniques for a vocalist in order for your breathing to be constant and consistent for supporting your singing voice. Always take the time to do exercises in breathing and breath control before you sing. This prepares your breathing mechanism for the strenuous physical activity that singing can be and it can also aid in calming any anxiety you may be experiencing.

2. Body alignment is vital; make certain that your posture is in correct alignment so that your legs, hips, back and tummy are supporting you.

3. Vocal projection through a mouth that is open wide, gives strength to your tone. Make sure that you utilize all of the muscle groups in your breathing apparatus for sustained support.

4. A proper warm up is imperative for your voice to be at it’s best and to help avoid vocal injury. Do some simple stretches of the neck and shoulders to remove any tension your body may have. This tension can transfer into the voice as well as your attitude.

5. Drink plenty of water before and during singing. This is the best liquid for anyone using his or her voice as a singer or speaker. You should always refrain from milk and dairy foods, which will interfere with the freedom of the vocal mechanism to function at peak proficiency. Also, vocalist should avoid caffeine and alcohol as well which will dry the vocal chords and interfere with singing.

6. If singing in front of others makes you nervous and uncomfortable, find as many opportunities to sing in front of others. It can be scary at first, but the more that you do it, the better you will become at to controlling you fear and anxiety. Always endeavor to breathe properly. Ask for feedback from those who listen on things that they observe and use that feedback to make improvements on how you present yourself. You can also work on building your level of confidence on your own without observers; make an effort to overcome any fear you may have by singing stronger and fuller and being more bold and creative with song stylings without the pressure of people observing you. Workout vocally in the privacy of your own home and see yourself succeeding! This kind of practice will begin to go with you into public.

In conclusion, always seek opportunities to sing…don’t avoid them. Instead of running from the challenge of singing, face it with a positive “I Can Do It” attitude, and take the risk and seize every opportunity to develop the gift of song in your heart. Most individuals sing because they choose to – not because they are made to!! You need to encourage yourself to enjoy sharing your voice with people, rather than let nerves rob you of the joy of the experience.

Keeping Joy in the Song

During a recent lesson with a student I noticed that as we were beginning the lesson that the spark that was usually there seemed to be missing from my student. We took a few minutes of the lesson to talk about life, music, goals and what they were hoping to see from their time in studying voice/music. Through this discussion we discovered several things that we want to pass along to you.

-Do not get lost in the mechanics. In other words, sometimes you just need to sing.
-Do not loose sight of what you are taking lessons for…personal growth? Enrichment? Auditions? Career development?
-Do not let the opinions of others deter you from striving to grow and better yourself…smile and keep on going!
-Do not let the joy of music and song slip away as you plug away at the details of study…keep the song in your heart!
-Above all, keep it a fun activity and not an obligation!

Time spent in the studio and personal practice are all a part of the journey, a snap-shot if you will of the bigger picture. Remember that all of the hours spent practicing and receiving instruction are molding and shaping you into the artist/musician that your heart is set on being. No matter where that journey may ultimately take you, it is for you, your joy, your fulfillment and what you purpose to use that gift for in they future.

Keep that Song in your Heart!

Spring Has “Sprung!” Are YOU Ready to Spring Into Lessons?

Well, spring has officially arrived and the evidence of “New” is all around! New growth on trees, beautiful plants and flowers in bloom and pollen adrift in the air. With the arrival of spring there is often a desire to get out and “do,” get-up and “go.” Does that describe you? Maybe this is the time to get plugged-in to taking those music lessons you have always thought about….singing? Playing the piano? Learning to play the guitar? Or is it just learning how to read music? Then Heart and Voice Studio has just what you need for your “get-up and go” urges!

Why not give me a call and find out what Heart and Voice Studio has in store for you. Who knows? Maybe this time next year when spring is about to be sprung, you can bring it in with a song in your heart! I look forward to hearing from you!

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