The One Show recently included a feature on breath control for singers. Presented by Carrie Grant, British vocal coach and session singer, the feature began – and ended – with two extraordinary facts: the longest note in UK chart history is held by Morten Harket from Aha who held a note for 20-seconds, in ‘Summer Moved On’. This record is followed by Bill Withers who held a note for 18-seconds in his song ‘Lovely Day’.
How do they do it? Is lung capacity the key?
Could lung capacity be the reason why one person is able to hold a note longer than another person? Does this have an impact on the length of note held?
The peak flow test used in the feature revealed how the person with half the value of the second test subject was able to hold a note for far longer. This most important factor in holding the note longer was how the subject ‘breathed’. How she breathed in and how she controlled her breathing.
To illustrate breath control Dane Chalfin, Vocal Coach, suggested thinking of the lungs as a tube of toothpaste being slowly squeezed by the stomach muscles. Using this analogy, imagine the toothpaste emerging from the tube in a slow and controlled manner. As the muscle contracts it pushes everything up and assists air back up to the vocal folds (like toothpaste being pushed to the opening of the tube).
Most singers will experience 50% of air lost in the first note if they don’t use breath control, whereas with breath control less air is lost and a purer, longer note can be produced.
The One Show programme shown on 18/04/2012 is available to view on BBC iPlayer until 25/04/2012. The feature starts from about the 22.54 minute mark.
Please leave a comment here if you’re using POWERbreathe as part of your vocal exercises for singers and breath control. We’d love to hear from you.