If you feel like you don’t understand Breath Support for singing, you’re not alone! This abstract concept plagues beginning singers universally. The concept of Breath Support is crucial to singing well and healthfully, but it is at once both very specific and somewhat unclear. In this post, we’ll unpack some of the reasons that a feeling of breath support can be so elusive for new and amateur singers.
Firstly, society’s perception of core strength and abdominal training is largely athletic and/or aesthetic. We take for granted that our core muscles hold us up all day and tend to only think about the (several) muscles that comprise our core when we want to make them look more noticeable or defined. The fact is, however, that our “core” is comprised of five muscles: your pyramidalis, rectus abdominus, external obliques, internal obliques, and transversus abdominis. When the fitness or fashion world talks about your core, they’re interested in your rectus abdominus– the “six pack” muscle.
For singing, our primary concern with those classic “six-pack” muscles is to keep them relaxed! Especially in very fit singers (looking at you, Broadway triple-threats!), the rectus abdominus is often too tight, resulting in difficulty with an even, slow release of air while singing as the abs want to draw in too fast. By keeping the belly soft, you can help resist this tightness. On the flipside, for the less toned among us, singing with abdominal support often conjures an over-worked athletic action, maybe from overcompensating for fear of having abs that are too weak! Wherever you fall on the spectrum of ab strength, you might be pleased to learn that the real picture of the work we need to do in the core for singing is all about Coordination, not strength.
For singers, we want to think not only of the front “six-pack” abs, but rather, of all of the muscles that wrap the trunk of your body; most especially, the transverse abdominus, the muscles of the deep core. Always breathe into your full sense of self, as though inflating yourself from the inside out.
The following image may help wrap your head around the makeup of your core muscles:
Notice how the Transverse Abdominus, as the deepest muscle layer, wraps around the body. Just as we want to think of our inhalations leading to a feeling of expanding and contracting, our focus on the activity of our core should bring an awareness of our full 360 degree self. We are not paper dolls! For optimal breath support, we must stay open and flexible, keeping the muscles of the core moving smoothly. Ultimately, core training and strengthening your abs is a great practice for all singers– not because you necessarily need the athletic power, but because you need the mind-body connection! Become aware of and in control of your core muscles to uncover flexible control in your singing as well.
Once your core moves flexibly and within your control, you’ll be able to distribute effort more evenly across your body, avoiding strain and creating a supportive environment for optimal vocal function. With a well-oiled machine in your core, enjoy vocal power without effort!
Ready to learn more about honing your skills to support your best vocal performances? Schedule a free consultation to meet with a teacher, chat about your goals and how we can help!