Thank you for your detailed responses, as well as your detailed articles on your website, they really help a lot. If you don’t mind me asking more questions, I have a couple more if that is alright. Concerning the “slightly in and up” abdominals, is this achieved by slight ’tilt’ of the pelvis? My back and abdominals seem to tense ‘naturally’ in response to the pelvic tilt. Is any more local effort necessary, or would this be sufficient enough?
In addition, many singers describe the ‘breath descending’ downward as the tone rises in pitch, more contraction, etc. I feel that in singing, there is much confusion between cause and correlation and it confuses neophytes such as myself. Is the feeling of the ‘breath descending downward’ a cause or effect? In other words, if you have (and maintain!) correct posture and correct inhalation, does the body naturally adjust the inherent torso tension for pitch changes, or is this something you must consciously tend to?
Yes, the pelvis needs to go with the abs. They work together. The gluteus muscles contract slightly, as well. I consider the natural contraction to be the starting place. Then they are primed to contract as needed for what is performed.
The feeling of the breath descending is a common observation. And you are correct that it can be confusing, with this and other sensations, to be clear about cause or result. I think since it is a sensation it has to be a result. For me a cause has to be an action. We can sense an action, but the sensation itself is not an action. It is a result.
The cause of this sensation is the decrease in size of the vibration. As pitch rises the vibration speeds up. In order to speed up the size diminishes. As the size of the vibration diminishes so does the size of the glottis, along with the amount of air pressure released with each puff. Since less air pressure is being released more is staying inside. This increase of internal air pressure is what causes the sensation of the breath descending with rising pitch.
This only happens when the larynx is stable and resisting the breath pressure appropriately. So keeping the stability of the structure and the consistency of the vibration is what we need to tend to. If we allow more air pressure to escape than is appropriate for the pitch we will not experience the sensation of the breath connection descending.
The confused interpretation of this is that we push down internally, like when going to the bathroom. The internal sensation of compression is related, but not the same. When we go to the bathroom compression is down because that is the direction of the escape. For singing the voice is up at the top of the torso, not down. So downward compression throws things out of balance. That is why we compress up, that is the direction of the voice at the top of the torso. But there is a subtle sense of down with the stabilizing of the larynx into the breath pressure.
Thanks for your comment Michaela. Yes, there are singers who like the idea of breathing into the back. I learned that concept in my days with David Jones. I don’t think about that now, but what I do does feel like you could describe it that way. I think of breathing so I feel the descending pressure from the diaphragm lowering. I don’t want to try and make the abdomen go out. It still does a little, but it feels natural rather than exaggerated. The other part that comes from this is a sense of connecting to the pelvis. Lamperti talked about pelvic control of the breath and that was something that I didn’t get for a long time.
Hello from Australia. Sorry to interrupt this discussion but I found both your comments interesting.
After discovering your site and videos awhile ago and doing my own research I started to adopt a breathing method that I think is similar to what you might be getting at.
When yawning and pushing the stomach out didn’t help, I tried breathing into my back while making sure my chest lifted at about the same time. I found it helpful, and also experienced a kind of descending breath sometimes before my ENT condition took over and involuntarily changed some things about my singing (I’m slightly better but the process is terribly slow).
In my research I found that many historical singers used a similar method. The other part to this apparently is that the singer pushes the breath against the diaphragm after the inhalation and while singing.
Just my humble thoughts. Say Michael, did you get the message I sent through the online form a few days ago? Sorry I sounded so ridiculous. I must have looked like Lucia during her final descent into madness. I hope you had a nice big drink.
Keep the great videos coming. Cheers Michaela
Jeff, the big thing to recognize is that the sensations in the face are a result of the intense vibration of the vocal folds. That is why I emphasize that we focus our attention there. Because the lips are closed it can make a weak vibration seem intense because it buzzes on the lips/nose. But that will result in an unstable larynx when opening back up to a vowel. We want to have the most intense sensations at the larynx and not at the face. The face always needs to be secondary to the source. That is the trap of humming and why Lamperti stated, “Don’t Hum!” I feel it can be helpful if done in this particular way.
Gotcha. Just to clarify: in your vid on humming, you really target the cheek/nose/lip vibrations as being the critical factor, and don’t seem to mention the larynx from what i remember. does it follow that if we can feel those global areas lit up, we’re still doing right. (fwiw, i cant even seem to hum purely on my lips; w/o my larynx working. or so it seems.).
And, of course: thanks as always, Michael.
Humming tends to be more sealed because the lips are closed. But for humming to be helpful it needs to still be done with the focus on the voice and not on the sound. I like to say hum at the larynx not at the lips. See, usually when we hum we feel the buzzing on our lips so that is where our attention goes. But that is still going to have an unstable larynx even though the vibration is more pure. If we think of humming at the larynx we can get the feel of a pure vibration where the elastic quality of the vocal folds are securely resisting the breath. That is what we are trying to discover and master. Without that resistant quality of the vocal folds the voice will never be secure.
So like any exercise, humming isn’t automatically effective. It still needs to be done with an active voice. Otherwise the vibration is still out of balance with the breath.
Hey, forgot to thank you, again, for this Mike. Thank you! And what you said makes sense, about how being slightly similar is still different.
But when you say, “Because any time we are moving the breath out it won’t correlate to vocalization.”, this doesn’t apply to humming though? (I recently watched your video on Lamperti and humming). We can still consider humming an (even safer) bridge to singing, yes?
No Problem, glad you are interested in what I have to say. :) The main thing I want to find is the body’s natural reflex to accomplish the act we intend. So when you hiss many of the same parts of the body activate, but not in exactly the same way because they are activating to hiss and not to vocalize. The activation for vocalization will be slightly different because it is a different act, but it will likely be similar. So doing the hiss can be educational, but I would hiss then stop, then vocalize. Because any time we are moving the breath out it won’t correlate to vocalization. So we need to stop and start again so the voice can start clean. Because when we vocalize there shouldn’t be breath going out like an exhale. The breath becomes subtle pressure that doesn’t really move because the vibration of the voice is on top of it. If we move the breath the voice can’t stay pure.
Sorry, just realized you might’ve already answered one of my questions when you said “i want to stretch length-wise”.
Michael, it really/truly did help, and eased a lot of my confusion. Especially this part: “..rib expansion I consider to be a postural thing, so they are already stretched a little before breathing. That gives an open feeling for the diaphragm to descend into.”, which (strangely) I’d never heard or read anybody frame as such.
Thank you so very, very much for writing back, and giving me this info/wisdom.
Could I (rudely) further take advantage of your kindness??!!
I get confused about level of engagement; Is it right that the pelvic floor engagement upon a strong hiss is the same sensation we should want while singing? (if not the same degree). So a decent exercise for a neophyte like me might be to hiss on exhale, then lapse into singing a vowel or line, keeping and remembering the sensation? (Or is this all just something you’re not super-conscious of while singing).
And Do you yourself feel like your upper body is kinda growing as you sing, (seemingly) leaving the hips behind? I find that ‘blooming’ feeling at times, (and know it fits in with some schools ‘o thought) but just wanted to make sure it fits in with your teaching.
I soooo wish you the absolute best, Michael; and thanks again. Cheers, jeff
Hi Jeff, thanks for your question. These are questions of subtlety, so it is hard to give concrete answers. The rib expansion I consider to be a postural thing, so they are already stretched a little before breathing. That gives an open feeling for the diaphragm to descend into. I encourage staying open while singing but we don’t actually succeed, we just slow down the retraction. I use the idea of an imaginary balloon inside and we are trying to not let it deflate. But it will deflate as we vocalize because the act uses the pressure. So we try to stay inflated, which slows it down, and keeps it from completely letting go and collapsing. That is the main goal, not collapsing. Because if we collapse we lose the air pressure and the vocalization is affected.
As for the curve of the back, I keep it. I consider the flat back a flexed condition so I don’t try to stay there posturally the whole time. I want to stretch length-wise, which feels like the curve is reducing. But it should stay. It is more an issue of avoiding letting the curve get exaggerated. Which tends to happen for most of us. So it might feel like we are making the back flatter there is still a natural curve because most of us collapse, allowing an exaggerated curve.
Hope that helps.
Hey there Michael, when talking about this tilt, you’re basically trying to get a flat back, right (ie, not a complete posterior tilt, but basically approaching that, yes)?And when you do the pelvic tilt, do you feel it in both the pelvic region AND the lower abs? Because i feel a pressure there.
The other thing I worry about is that they say we should always allow a slight curve in our lower back- they’ve studied groups with no back problems, and this is a recurring condition.
And when i do this, I do notice that it encourages the breath into the ribs more- that’s what you’re going for, yes? I only ask b/c i seem to remember in another article you saying that you don’t necessarily teach ‘expanded-ribs type appoggio’ or the like.
Thanks so much for your time, Michael. Jeff