Article:
On the Breath

On the Breath
"The sweetest three-word phrase that has been, and always will be my favorite since my re-discovery.In singing, it isn't the air itself that matters so much, but how the air is dispensed in...."
Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit-The Voice Station-Core Melody Voice Studio On the Breath

As a singer who has many years of singing under my belt, I finally feel "settled" with my singing. I spent years trying different ways and making many bad decisions, and ended up hurting myself countless times, just to learn that "that" particular method had failed. I started singing when I was very young, for no other reason than, "Because it makes me feel happy." Those early singing years were pure joy, for I just sang. I remember that some of the adults who offered to "train" me kept trying to get me to pay attention to how they breathed. I often wondered why I needed to learn how to breathe when I was already breathing -and didn't need anyone to tell me to do something which was obviously so natural that I never even bothered thinking about it!

Unfortunately, once I left my childhood I forgot how to "just sing," and from then on started to obscure my natural instincts in singing by bringing in complications. Suddenly, I had to go out of myself to "breathe" a certain way- not to mention that I had it in my head I had to hold in certain stomach muscles. I also went through a period of puffing out my tummy. Then, I sang very open-mouthed; and, still later, almost close-mouthed. Then, I started to use imagery as analogies in my "technique," from smelling a rose to seeing a waterfall in the back of my head, along with many more intriguing objects flying in and out. The reason to sing was no longer because it made me feel happy, but had instead become something I had to conquer.

When I finally became "fully" mature -and I mean not only in terms of physical maturity, but also mental- I felt the need to go back to the beginning, when it was such a pleasure to sing simply because I wanted to sing -to sing spontaneously, to sing freely. The shocking truth was, even though I remember how it felt, I couldn't seem to find my way there. Despite the many different roads I took, I ran into an invisible barrier every time.

It didn't hit me until much more time had passed that the answer had laid within me all through my life. I had spent a lot of years looking for a solution from the outside-in, when I could just go straight to the core -the cause, the root. I had just figured out the right key to open the front door, and I could finally come out of that stuffy place to enjoy the sun and even to smell the roses. Suddenly, I shook off all the restraints and was free.

"On the breath" - the sweetest three-word phrase that has been, and always will be my favorite since my re-discovery. It is so basic it stands alone -firmly- with no need for any elaboration. In singing, it isn't the air itself that matters so much, but how the air is dispensed in a steady stream, at the same time being reserved in order to make sure there's enough to go from beginning to end. If I may, I'd like to use an analogy for the sake of clarification: Suppose your body is a car, and when you make the singing sound that's when the car moves from point A to point B, and the air you breath in is the fuel to move it. I hope we all agree that the best car is the one that uses fuel as steadily and sparingly as possible as it goes through the system, yielding both constant performance and the best mileage.

This is what "on the breath" is. It is what brings out the sound. It doesn't do anything as far as resonating -aka giving it more "power." -Really, that business takes place somewhere else, and it is taught in a one-on-one voice lesson with any good teacher. When amateur singers perform, a common misunderstanding is that one resonates by adding volume. This causes an impact from the air passing through the delicate vocal cords, as it fills the mouth cavity and creates volume. This type of vocal production lasts only a few seconds each time; but, when it is pushed for a longer effect, the person making the sound will feel tightness in his throat, and in some there will be bumps on the sides of his throat due to the tension and the pressure in his vocal tissues. Done repeatedly, this can irritate the throat, and in the long run it may bring on an injury and/or an illness.

Breathing is wonderful, and the air is good. But singing takes more than taking in the air: it's more of knowing how to use the air. Nonetheless, the air is essential. I have had many students who came to me with the idea of "puffing in" as much as possible by taking in a fast shallow breath. But they couldn't even sustain two whole notes because the air didn't make it inside their lungs. It's like -another analogy- taking the gas pump to the car's tank, but instead of waiting to put the nozzle in properly you start pumping right away. There's gas spilled everywhere but none goes inside the gas tank.

Once one gets into the habit of breathing in, one then has to learn how to manage the air flow as he breathes out the sound. And this is the tough part. When you come along further in your lessons, "on the breath" also means riding the waves like you are surfing. You move with such flexibility and agility, fast or slow, loudest to the most gentle and softest. You ride smoothly from the height of your voice all the way to the warmest bottom without any jerking movement or falling off the board. That's "on the breath."

Now you understand the basics of how the breath works in conjunction with sound production. This part is simple enough. The next time someone tells you how you should breathe when you sing, you will be able politely to thank him with a smile.


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