Friday, February 18, 2011

elliptical breathing

Tuesday February 8,  I had my first voice lesson with a professor from the university.  I felt such a flood of emotions and memories going back there, this time to sing.  Was really happy with our first lesson.  He talked to me about the Bernoulli effect.  You can click on that to read a more scientific explanation.  He showed me, as an example what happens when you blow through two pieces of paper that  are lying together.  They compress and ripple as the air pressure increases.  He compared that to the vocal cords.I'm not sure if this works for me yet. 

He talked about what he called threshold singing,  not referring to the practice of singing at a dying person's bedside, but rather, finding the place where the air is neither held back nor pushed out forcefully.  When a singer reaches the point of that threshold, the vocal folds relax, particularly the outer folds, the air he said, and I had to smile at this "without compulsory means."  The end result is a relaxed feel for the singer and a relaxed sound for the listener.  Withholding the air actually takes more effort than relaxing and letting it flow, which creates more tension throughout the entire body and makes the sound less resonant.

Today when I returned for my second lesson we reviewed the concept.  He showed me an exercise..what to call it.. He didn't have a name so I'll call it elliptical breathing.  He showed me how to use my hands and arms in an elliptical motion in front of my abdomen and brought them up to my chest as I inhaled.  I pushed them down slowly as I exhaled, moving in a slow, graceful oblong circle to visualize the inhale/ exhale process.

Elliptical breathing is different than the slow leak exercise that Roger Love teaches. I like that one for relaxation, particularly if I have insomnia.  It helps me become aware of how long I can extend a phrase and what the depth of my breath capacity is.  This particular elliptical breathing exercise doesn't focus on using the vocal folds as a valve like the slow leak does.  We were working on thinking about opening and relaxing the vocal folds and avoiding tension or withholding the breath too in a way it is an opposite approach. My guess is that the two exercises, which are both useful, could help a singer find a nice middle ground, which usually seems to be the best any aspect of life.

I enjoyed my lesson again today.  He doesn't use the piano at all.  For so many years I thought I couldn't teach without a piano.  But I must admit that I miss hearing it. I think that feeling of being "accompanied" is part of the therapeutic aspect of a voice lesson. Nonetheless, I really like digging into the technicalities of singing.

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