Taking A Breather…

by | Training

Acting teachers and coaches tell us that the key to good breath support is to breathe from the diaphragm. If you do any acting, you know breathing exercises can help you relax and focus

And with respect to the diaphragm, courtesy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definitions most applicable to us voice actors are as follows:


Middle English diafragma, from Late Latin diaphragma, from Greek, from diaphrassein to barricade, from dia- + phrassein to enclose

          Date: 14th century

1: a body partition of muscle and connective tissue; specifically : the partition separating the chest and abdominal cavities in mammals 2: a dividing membrane or thin partition especially in a tube

I have found a wealth of information , including an excerpt from The Actors Voice; (translated from Serbian)

“The main breathing muscle – diaphragm – is at the same time the lower appoggio: it provides support for breath and voice and protects vocal cords from straining. In fact, the performance of vocal cords is closely connected to the activity of the diaphragm. Appoggio, the breath support on the diaphragm, provides a sense of fortification in the intercostal-abdominal area. As breath support is being formed on the diaphragm, at the moment of inhalation there is a pause that many academics refer to as a “prefatory tension.” What happens is that the breath (and voice) support on the diaphragm, or appoggio on the diaphragm, can consolidate without any phonation – sound formation at all. We can easily recognize this if we inhale and then, by pushing the diaphragm, soundlessly but firmly exhale. For this we can use syllable “HA.” We can conclude that the phonation has not happened at all, even though we have established the breath support on the diaphragm. From this we see that the moment of preparation for phonation is important, the secret moment before the formation of sound in which a transition occurs from respiratory to sound making function. In that moment begins the collaboration and consolidation of both appoggi – the one on the diaphragm and the one in the head, which assumes the role of a resonator, sound transmitter, and sound amplifier. Good coordination of both appoggi activates completely the resounding areas, allows unhindered emission of voice and gives this voice its volume. The correct, deep breathing, is a process that can be learned and controlled. The breathing conditions and changes our posture, the positioning of our bodies, but it also conditions our worldview. Breathing yields self-esteem and allows deep inner peace. Deep breathing can relax our thoughts, body and soul, and enable us to find the right words that accurately express our immediate, often very complex, emotional state. Breathing is action, breathing is philosophy. Breathing properly means thinking properly. Controlled breath triggers creative excitement, but it also leads into the peace of mind and body, as in a prayer. For a moment, we can come close to the blessed ones and touch the realm of spirit, like in a controlled, deep breath of monks at prayer.”

An opposing viewpoint, is from Seán Martinfield, who acclaims the Belters Method :

“The first thing to consider is your physical exercise program.  You will be the first to know if your reflection in the mirror shows a body that is in Olympic Centerfold condition.  You must be in superb cardio vascular condition.  You must strive for those abs of steel.  That means vigorous sweat-producing exercise.

Many of my clients do Pilates training in tandem with Yoga, running, swimming, tennis, etc.  Your breath patterns in a song are dependent upon an absolute knowledge of your lung capacity.  That knowledge must be informed by something other than singing – and the best way is through staying in competitive shape.  It can’t happen overnight, but it must happen.  Physical exercise must be an absolute part of who you are as a singer.  You will be amazed not only at your increased self confidence in how you look in front of your audiences (and your competition!) but how much easier it becomes to float and sustain those long phrases any time you want to / need to / have to.

Don’t listen to a bunch of nonsense speak about “breathing from the diaphragm”.  Work with a trainer at the gym if you can.  Always check-in with your Doctor about possible back problems, etc.  Wear the appropriate shoes, blah-blah.  Be the most sober person you know.  Stay away from the saturated fats, diet sodas, coffee, watch the dairy products, salt and sugar.”

And then there are the Ramblings of Some Audio Guy’s no-nonsense advice about  avoiding struggling with longer copy by exhaling first. It’s  not about running out of air, but having too much used air.

What do you think?


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