Hoarseness after singing
Flat high notes
Inability to sing long phrases
Lack of legato line
Too much airflow/pressure moving through the vocal cords
Too little displacement of pressure to the lower body
Small intake of air below the bottom of the ribs
Engagement of the lower lumbars
Vocal tract manipulation: soft palate, nasopharynx and oropharynx.
As singers, we are an ambitious lot. We are passionate and intense. We make fabulous performers but we hurt ourselves in the process. Too much air pressure moving through the cords will tire voice and makes the process of singing opera a very difficult, self-flaggelating thing.
The solution is breath support....but what does that really mean? Often what the singer feels and what is pedagogically occurring are very different things.
What the singer FEELS:
Here's the simple answer: Moan, grunt, laugh or cough.
These natural reflexes will demonstrate how supported air feels in the body while singing. Notice how the lumbar (lower back) muscles expand? The key to breath support is to take a small amount of air below the lower ribs into the back and expand the lower lumbars continuously. This expansion of the back is coupled with a continuous tilt of the pelvis throughout the phrase.
Here's the academic answer:
Muscles only contract or relax. Muscles never push. Muscle systems involve two sets of muscles, each pulling in an opposite direction. The diaphragm ( a set of muscles attached to the lower ribs) pulls down, creating a vacuum that sucks air into the lungs. The abdominal muscles contract to push air out of the lungs. Support is the combination of the diaphragm resisting the abdominals and the abdominals controlling the air flow and creating air pressure for singing.
Too much air pressure against the vocal chords prevents the vocal chords from operating correctly and can cause damage to the voice. Too little air pressure produces a weak and breathy tone.
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