Breathing for Singing
Breathing … It is so important.
Everybody can breathe, can’t they?
Well … yes, at least enough to sustain life, but a singer needs to master this seemingly simple and natural technique.
Breathing correctly is the key to sorting out so many issues with the singing voice that to neglect it or take it for granted will at the very least slow your advancement and in some cases cause serious harm to your vocal cords.
Even some professional singers are guilty of not understanding what breathing for singing is all about.
So many new singers are simply told to “breathe from your diaphragm.” Well I’ve got news for you: We All Breathe From Our Diaphragm! It is part of our physiology – it is part of the mechanism that enables us to breathe.
The important thing is to know how to develop this mechanism including the diaphragm so that we can control the very thing that enables us to make a sound: Our Breath.
If we cannot control our breathing it would be similar to trying to play guitar with gloves on.
It is not good enough to be simply told to “Breathe from you diaphragm,” or be given any other vague reference to breathing without being taught what to do, how to do it, what to feel for, and how to combine different aspects of the breathing mechanism to achieve what it is you are aiming for.
Correct breathing can enhance every aspect of singing including: pitch, tone, intonation, stamina, feeling, confidence, and pretty much everything in between.
I can teach you how to harness this powerhouse for singing, and this important platform will give you what you need to become the master of your own singing destiny.
Being a singer is about far more that being able to hold a tune – although, obviously that helps.
To develop as a performer it is important to embrace all styles of music, even if you are not interested in performing that style or genre.
By listening to and understanding the different styles, you are adding to your subconscious and conscious bank of musical information, and as a creative person, this will enable you to continually develop your own key elements that make you unique.
The important aspect of listening is the ability to understand what is happening and because of this understanding you are more able to use what you hear in a way that only a singer who knows how the voice works can do.
The voice is the most complex of musical instruments – by learning how it works and being able to manipulate the sounds that it can create - will allow you to build a set of techniques that are beautifully you.
I send the other me out to perform. It’s Miss Hayler Fisher, not me – Hayley.
I need to be someone essentially different to who I actually am to be able to go out and stand on stage for two hours or more to entertain an audience who I have mostly never met.
At an early point in my singing and performing career I realised that I owed it to my audience to be an entertainer. Sure … I could just stand on stage as Hayley and sing, but that would be short-changing my audience.
Now, some of us are natural entertainers, but most people are naturally shy and prefer to be a part of the crowd rather than the person that the crowd looks to to be entertained.
I, believe it or not, am naturally shy, but I love to sing, and singing is a naturally social thing and needs to be shared with … other people … yes, an audience.
To be what I wanted to be on stage – I found: Miss Hayley Fisher – my alter-ego – which in Latin means: The other I.
Finding your inner performer – your alter ego, is something with which I am very well practiced. And I can help you find that entity within that is your very own natural performer.
When you release this person he/she will learn very quickly all of the aspects of performing that you would love to be.
Learning to sing has many aspects – and finding that inner you is as much a singing technique as is breathing and voice placement.
Comfort Zones. We all have them don’t we – and we love them. And why shouldn’t we. They are after all the areas of our lives where we are … well … comfortable.
They are the situations where we feel in control and are surrounded by the familiar, they are the places where we can just feel at ease.
The thing is with comfort zones, is that sometimes they start out as being frightening situations, but when we embrace them we can very soon realize that they really were only scary in our imagination and in fact they are things that we actually enjoy.
As performers, we like to stay with the tried and tested. We know what has worked in the past and so therefore it should work today and into the future. We have our own little comfort zone of songs that we perform and how we perform them. We have our own little stock-item one-line banter retorts and we have our myriad of other things that we do and the way that we do them – and much of the time we do not even notice how ‘Automatic’ we have become.
It is important to periodically step outside of ourselves and view what we do so that we can basically keep it all fresh. I’m not saying change it all. I’m saying take little bits and review how that little bit still fits into who you are and what you do.
Search for new songs and new styles – listen to artists who take familiar songs and who perform them in a new way. Watch videos of artists that you have never heard of (search YouTube).
At the very least this will present you with new ideas. Step outside of your comfort zone little by little and remain spontaneous rather that slipping into automatic mode.
Remember, as a singer, you are generally front and centre – and whether you are solo or with a band or duo or whatever - the lasting impression that the audience have will probably be of you.
Scary isn’t it? But oh so wonderful …
There truly is a first time for everything.
A desire, a need, or a necessity to perform in front of an audience affects us in different ways. It really depends on what sort of personality we are.
The first time we perform will undoubtedly be a mixture of many different feelings – and, I can say from experience that no matter how long you have been doing it, those feelings will always remain. The only thing that changes is your experience of how to handle and channel those feelings so that those feelings can be used to enhance your stage presence and performance.
It is natural to feel nervous, self-conscious, even fear. It is natural to wonder what others will think of you. The good news is: It is almost essential to feel these emotions because without them a performance will be lacking those vital ingredients that allows you to connect with your audience: Genuine emotion, empathy, vulnerability, heart and soul. Remember we should be performing TO an audience not AT the audience, and the audience want you to succeed if you treat them the same way that you would treat a friend.
The trick is: getting past those First Time Fears.
Learning your art and becoming confident in your abilities is a continual process.
When you are a singer – whether you are in a band or solo, the focus of attention is usually on you.
There are many ways you can overcome your initial fears of performing for the first time.
As a singing teacher and vocal coach as well as being a professional performer I will help you with your stage craft and overcoming your initial fears if that is something that you feel you would like help with.
I can also advise you on how to get started with your performance career.
The preparation time is not the last 24 hours before you are due to perform.
Preparation should be an integral part of your practice and rehearsal program, whether you have an audition or not.
Before you attempt entering into a competition or auditioning, you should already be doing certain things:
You need to be practicing regularly.
You need to be identifying areas within your voice that need improvement.
You need to know what is required to attain that improvement.
You need to be listening to all styles of music, even ones that you don’t enjoy, because that way you can learn new techniques that you can use with your own voice and in your own style.
You need to be building your repertoire of songs so that you are not one of those new singers who only know 2 or 3 songs.
You also need to be watching other performers so that you can decide for yourself what is good and bad performance.
All of these things are vital if you are serious about becoming a performing singer. And for the professional singer it is a lifelong process.
Okay, so you have been doing all of the above and now you have just signed up for a competition/audition. Hopefully it is a few weeks or even months away, but even if it isn’t – the fact that you have been doing all of the above means that you are 80% there.
The following are the basics that need to be done to give you the best chance of success:
Understand what it is that ‘They’ are looking for and chose songs from your repertoire that you feel would be the best match.
Notice I said ‘songs’ not just song. To go with only one song is the best way to throw an opportunity away.
Chose at least 3 but ideally 5 songs that you are going to polish for the big day.
Tip: Make a habit of recording these songs (even on your phone) when you rehearse them.
It is important to rehearse these songs, but not to the point of them becoming stale to you. This balance is really tricky, but your performance on the day needs to feel spontaneous and vibrant.
You also need to consider how you will ‘Perform’ your songs. To do this effectively you must understand what the song is about and absorb this essence into what you do on stage.
So many performers just turn up on the day and hope for the best. Give yourself the edge by always doing what a professional would do. Never take anything for granted – Study – rehearse – analyse – improve.
I am a professional Singer – Singing teacher and Vocal coach.
I can help you with all of this – so that the whole process becomes familiar to you.
There Is No Secret ... But ...
The biggest mistake made by students learning any art is to not practice what they have been shown and taught when they leave the environment of the teaching room.
As in all physical pursuits – the body needs to be encouraged and enticed in to committing the correct techniques to muscle memory.
When something physical becomes ‘second nature’ what we really mean is that the body does what it needs to do at the right time in the right place with the correct degree of control, without the performer having to consciously conjure it by having to think consciously about it – the body does it instinctively – and that is muscle memory.
The only way to develop this is by regular and consistent practice of the techniques that you have learned. There is no short-cut.
My advice is to Practice – Practice – Practice. There is no substitute for it.
Certain styles and genres of music suit certain voices better than others. This is a fact of life, but it doesn’t mean that if your voice does not suit your favourite style that you will have to sing stuff you do not like.
The first thing is to understand what it is that you like about your favourite style, because this is where our desires for a style and our voices can start to converge.
When you learn how your voice works, and learn to master its many controls, you will be in a position to shape your voice to better suit the style of music that you like.
The important thing is not to get bogged down by conventional thinking. Singing is a creative endeavor, and we must always be looking for ways to accomplish our desires, even if it flies against what is the accepted norm.
If an opera singer wants to perform scream, it may seem unusual, but it would definitely add a new dimension to that style, likewise if a rock singer wants to perform jazz, it would also create a new layer to a familiar style.
It doesn’t matter what you want to sing and how far your voice is away from that style – by learning how to use your voice you can develop styles in such a way that they become YOUR style.
The X Factor hit our television screens way back in 2004. The floodgates opened and everyone wanted to be the next Little Mix or Leona Lewis, Sam Baily or Matt Cardle.
The show built expectation which is great, but it also presented itself as the only way to have a singing career and I have encountered many disappointed singers who either couldn’t get to an audition or who were “rejected” in the early stages, and whose confidence had been badly affected as a result.
The important thing to remember is that The X Factor is not the only game in town – and rejection is a very necessary part of becoming a success, especially if you are intending to have a long career.
Any audition or competition is most certainly an opportunity – even if success on the day is not forthcoming, you would have learned a lot, and you will have gained experience just through putting yourself forward and completing the process.
The secret to any audition or competition is Preparation. There are no short cuts.
I am a judge on the local heats of Teen Star and Open Mic UK. I have the greatest admiration and respect for all of the contestants. My greatest heartbreak at some of these competitions is to watch undoubtedly talented singers lose a competition place because they have not taken the time to ensure that they were giving their best - in short – they did not prepare effectively.
I am very happy to coach you in preparation for any audition or competition. One session or a series, whatever you feel you need. Let’s make those auditions and competitions a proper stepping stone. Let’s get those preparations underway.
Your singing career can take many different paths to the same destination – Let me show you the signposts.
Make no mistake. The singing voice is a musical instrument.
It is also the most complex musical instrument there is.
Until we understand how an instrument works and what all the controls actually do, and how to use them, our ability to play that instrument will always be restricted.
Yes, there are some who are naturally gifted, but most of us have to explore and learn how our singing voice works. This is not an easy task, as there are many “controls” that need to be mastered and used together to create your unique singing voice.
With the voice, the control issue is also compounded because most of the controls cannot be seen, unlike, say: a guitar or piano where we can see the strings, neck, frets, keys and peddles etc.
Using songs that you want to sing:
I will show you the controls and how to use them; and how to use them in conjunction with each other to enable development in tonal quality, projection, pitching etc.
As you develop in these areas you will start to develop your own singing voice and style - that is all part of the evolutionary process of learning to sing.
Song based teaching allows for an issue to be identified in its proper context.
This allows for that issue to be understood and tackled at the time it is happening.
The analysis of an issue and the reasons as to why it is happening can vary depending on other surrounding aspects within the song;
Therefore song based teaching is the ideal way to identify and rectify vocal issues. It enables you to bring everything together in a natural way.