Don't Forget to Breathe
Jane Fonda says it often, "don't forget to breathe." While eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate, and watching her workout videos, I would always laugh when she would remind all of us (I guess even those of us who are chowing down on the ice cream) to breathe. But, she's right. Too often, as singers, we are actually forgetting to breathe. It seems like a no brainer: inhale, sing, repeat. But, in fact, it's not so easy. Sure, we're taking a breath before singing a line, but are we taking in enough air? I don't think so.
Many of my students are falling into the same pit. Their voices are getting bigger, ranges widening, and have a more consistent solid tone. BUT, their breathing isn't evolving as quickly. When you're putting out bigger sound, longer lines, etc., you need more air "in the can" to support this bigger sound, not to mention the larger amount of energy you need to put that big ol' voice out there!
My students are always laughing at me for some of the crazy exercises I give them. I have a new exercise that I call "Breathing for the Couch." I have an exercise ball (no, I'm not using it for exercise. That would just be silly). I put the ball on the floor in front of them and tell them to pick it up. Inevitably, the student will take a minimal breath, bend from the waist and pick up the ball. When I put the ball back on the floor, I ask the student to pretend the ball is a couch. "Now pick it up, but breathe for the couch." The student will then take in a large breath, bend from the knees into a squatting position and really LIFT the ball. "Excellent." We then begin a plethora of breathing exercises using the ball as the couch. The students really begin to take in more air, feel a bigger expansion, support the object (obviously this is representing their voices), keep their center of gravity low, support their sound with the lower half of their bodies, and really start getting a better understanding of the amount of energy it takes and the amount of breath support you really need to keep putting consistent sound out into the world.
It may be a little odd, or unconventional, but "breathing for the couch" has my singers working out harder than Jane Fonda!