POWERbreathe For Vocalists

POWERbreathe Japan have been supporting several singers with POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training to help them breathe more deeply, control their breath and sustain forceful breathing.

Artists who’ll be undertaking their POWERbreahte Inspiratory Muscle Training include singer-songwriters Chika Takahashi and UKO (Yuko), and vocalists Daisuke and Nona.

Each artist has their own unique style of singing but each vocalist will benefit from POWERbreathe IMT.

Chika Takahashi

Chika, a beautifully soft-voiced neo-acoustic singer has been using POWERbreathe since last year and began using it two-weeks prior to a live performance, afterwards saying how comfortable her breathing was during the performance. She now uses it on a daily basis and takes it with her to all live performances so she can perform a vocal warm-up prior to going on-stage.

You can see Chika talking about POWERbreathe on YouTube >

Daisuke

Daisuke, a versatile singer with a reputation for a powerful falsetto voice has not long started POWERbreathe training.

He says that because you can’t actually see your breathing muscles you don’t think about training them, but after using POWERbreathe he felt immediately how much stronger they would become.

Nona

Nona is a percussionist and vocalist and therefore not only has to have enough breathing stamina to sing, but also to drum at the same time, so her breathing will fatigue quite quickly. By using POWERbreathe daily she will improve her breathing strength and stamina and reduce her breathing fatigue.

UKO (Yuko)

UKO has a mellow and soulful voice, and in 2014 her single “Signal” was nominated for the ‘JBS Music Award’. She’s a very energetic singer and realises how important it is that her breathing muscles are strong in order for her to maintain her energy. POWERbreathe IMT will help her with this as she’ll be training her breathing muscles twice a day to become stronger and more resistant to fatigue.

Find out more about POWERbreathe for vocalists in Japan >

Proper Breathing – POWERbreathe Can Help

Your primary breathing muscle is your diaphragm; a dome shaped thin sheet of muscle separating your rib cage from your abdomen.

When you inhale this dome shape flattens out as your diaphragm contracts, pushing down on the contents of your abdomen (your gut) and increasing the space in your chest cavity.

Because your gut has to go somewhere as your diaphragm descends, it forces it down and out and your tummy expands. Because of this, this natural, healthy and proper way of breathing is often referred to as abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing.

If you do already have a good breathing technique it can often go awry when you start exercising as you demand more air and your breathing increases to compensate. This is when your breathing technique can change from good diaphragmatic breathing to reverse breathing i.e. pulling in your tummy as you breathe in and letting your tummy go as you breathe out.

Because your diaphragm is a muscle, you can train it like any other muscle to become stronger and helping you retain that good diaphragmatic breathing even when pushed to your limit. POWERbreathe targets your inspiratory muscles – not only your diaphragm but also your intercostal muscles, the tiny muscles in between your ribs, which are recruited during a slightly forced respiration.

You’ll notice when training with POWERbreathe that you have to work harder to breathe in. This is the effect of resistance training acting on your inspiratory muscles. When breathing out, POWERbreathe offers no resistance because when you exhale normally, your diaphragm and intercostals naturally relax and move back up, pushing the air from your lungs.

POWERbreathe Vocal Performance Case Study

Image from Mountview Academy website

Jon Trevor, TV Expert at Sit-up Channels and Show Business Personal Trainer at Fit4ThePart, led a two-year trial with Dialect Dialogue and Voice Coach, Rick Lipton, at leading UK Drama Academy, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, using POWERbreathe inspiratory muscle training as a platform for singers and performers to help enhance their vocal performance.

The trial involved a bespoke combination of physical exercises combined with Inspiratory Muscle Training with POWERbreathe to see if it enhanced the performers’ vocals.

“We found that IMT (Inspiratory Muscle Training) did indeed have a positive effect on vocal performance, in activating the soft pallet and helping participants to identify and control intra-abdominal pressure,” reported Jon Trevor.

Having worked with the students for two years, Jon found that specific POWERbreathe training helped with breath control which in turn resulted in an improvement in vocal ability and vocal performance, “in more ways than just on a physical plain”.

“Having uncontrolled stronger breathing muscles can blow the vocal folds, which is not good for a singer, so my programme is a physical programme designed specifically for singers in combination with IMT that incorporates the learning curve of controlled breath support.”

Inspiratory muscle training with POWERbreathe:

  • Enhances the ability to inflate the lungs (take deeper breaths)
  • Enhances the ability to control the breath
  • Enhances the ability to sustain forceful breathing (breathing does not become fatigued)
  • May affect the intrinsic laryngeal muscles which control the action of the larynx

One of the three mechanisms of voice production is the Air Pressure System which involves the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, ribs, abdominal muscles and lungs. They help in voice production by providing air and by controlling the pressure of that air.

Learning to control your breath will help to control your voice, and by strengthening the breathing muscles used in the Air Pressure System for voice production, you’ll improve your ability to control your breathing. By incorporating POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) into your vocal exercise routine, you’ll help make full use of your lungs, and how well you inhale will affect how well you exhale.

Read more about how POWERbreathe can benefit music and singing , or if you’re already using POWERbreathe to help with your vocal training then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum, Facebook or Twitter as we’d love to hear from you. You can also read about how POWERbreathe has been used by other singers and musicians in our Performing Arts blog.

POWERbreathe goes to Hollywood

Our POWERbreathe friend and distributor in Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak, Armtirix Enterprise, have released some very exciting news about top local singer, Fakhrul Razi.

Fakhrul Razi is an independent Brunei singer-songwriter and TV host and has been performing in shows and at events in Brunei and Internationally since 2004. He has a massive following in Indonesia and Malaysia, and when you hear his voice, you’ll know why.

Listen to a few of Fakhrul Razi’s tracks here on ReverbNation.

Armtrix provided Fakhrul with a POWERbreathe Plus Level 2 (MR) to, as Fakhrul put it “help me hit that note cause it helps to strengthen the lung muscle so I can sing better.”

Fakhrul is one of three aspiring talents selected to represent Brunei in the Vocals, Instrumental and Acting Categories at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) in Hollywood. The WCOPA is the only international performing arts talent competition and educational experience of its kind held annually in Hollywood, CA, and each year countries from across the world send their best and most outstanding talent to the event. Fakhrul, entered for the Vocals category, and others will face a huge contest of skills to see who is the most accomplished in the world.

Fakhrul and others will be in Hollywood for two weeks (the championships take place July 12th – 21st, 2013), joining in on workshops designed to help them master their individual skills, before competing on stage.

We’re just hoping that in his excitement Fakhrul will have remembered to take his POWERbreathe with him, as like any form of exercise, warming-up is essential, and the vocal folds (vocal cords) are no exception. They need to be warmed up just like any muscle before they can work at an optimum rate. The work that scientists undertook with singers supported the notion that using POWERbreathe as part of a vocal exercise warm-up could enhance the ability to generate tension in the vocal folds and therefore increase vocal range.

For Fakhrul, who decided to try POWERbreathe to help him “hit that note…so he can sing better,” POWERbreathe will help him make full use of his lungs. Learning to control his breath will help him control his voice, and the aim of breathing exercises for breath control is to inhale as much as possible, as quickly as possible, which is what POWERbreathe training does. The point of this is so that the singer, Fakhrul, will then be able to release his breath in a controlled manner while singing. The other benefit Fakhrul will find from training with POWERbreathe is that his breathing muscles will become stronger which in turn will help him propel his voice when he needs volume, and then have the strength to control his breath during the quieter notes.

POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training will help all singers:

  • Enhance the ability to inflate the lungs (take deeper breaths)
  • Enhance the ability to control the breath
  • Enhance the ability to sustain forceful breathing (breathing does not become fatigued)

Everyone from POWERbreathe would like to wish Fakhrul all the best in his competition, and we’ll keep you posted on his progress. If you’d like to leave your well-wishes for Fakhrul then please feel free to leave a comment here.

Read more about how POWERbreathe could prove beneficial as part of your vocal exercises and vocal warm-up, or if you’re a singer and are already using POWERbreathe to help with breath control, then please leave a comment here or on the POWERbreathe Forum as we’d love to hear from you. You can also read more about POWERbreathe and the use of Inspiratory Muscle Training in Performing Arts on our blog.

Steps to follow for better breathing for singers

When practising breathing techniques, using a child as a role model is perfect. They have the correct posture – head up shoulders relaxed and level and perfect alignment of hips, knees and ankles, everything required to breathe efficiently – just perfectly natural. Adults don’t have such a perfect posture – laziness, tight clothing and weariness, all resulting in us breathing less efficiently which impacts our speaking and singing.

However, it doesn’t have to be like this! Loosen that waistband, relax and follow these great steps to correct breathing.  I noticed the difference, will you?

#Good Posture

Posture is important. Practice good posture by lifting up on your toes then back down. Your shoulders should be relaxed. Lift your hands straight up over your head. Keep your chin parallel with the floor and allow your head to balance naturally over your shoulders. Let your arms fall to your sides. Shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should all be aligned perfectly.  The best way to practice good posture is to stand in front of a mirror as you are teaching your muscles to memorise the right position and muscles have memory. You will be able to see if you are balancing correctly or if you have a lack of balance.

#Chest and ribs need to be stable and still

This is important. Once they are still gradually extend your arms out to your sides until they are parallel with the flow. You should be making a ‘T’ shape with your body. Keep practicing until you feel your body is aligned

#Keep still

Take your hands and clasp them together behind your head and without moving your chest and ribs, gently inhale. At this point you should allow your lower abdomen to expand and drop away to receive the breath. Exhale small breaths, keeping your ribs and chest still and expanded.  You will notice the main areas being worked are the lower abdominal areas and the waist.

#Focus on crucial areas

You need to focus on the crucial areas of your breathing as these will enable you to be in control of how you breathe. Keep the sides (below ribs, at waist level) in a constantly expanding state. Not fixed or tight, or collapsed…always expanding outward. By first checking your posture with arms lifted up, then placing your fingers in your sides, you will feel the initial expansion when you inhale. Now, keep those areas expanding during the exhalation. As you work to develop this constantly expanding status in the sides, you will begin to experience a freedom in the throat.

#Comfort is important

Lie down on the floor, on your back. Get comfortable. Clasp your hands and let them rest on your abdomen around your belly. To ease any tension in your back, bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Now, fully relaxing, with a still chest, feel the activity in your abdomen as you inhale and exhale. The more you keep the sides and back expanding,

the more the frontal, abdominal muscles will be able to do their work. By now you should be very aware of a healthy expansion of the abdominal area all the way from the sternum (the base of the breastbone) to the pelvic bone. You should also notice increasing

activity in the sides and lower and middle back. This is something you are allowing, not making. It’s natural.

#Make sure your hands are in the right place when exercising

Place your hands behind your head, keeping your elbows on the floor. Keeping your chest still, begin rhythmically taking in short breaths to the count of 1, 2, 3, 4 and blowing out short breaths to the count of 1, 2, 3, 4. Then expand that to 8 counts in and 8 counts our. Finally, when ready, advance to 16 in and out and even 32 counts in and out.

#Use appropriate equipment to help

Take a seat on the front edge of a firm chair and lean forward, resting your elbows on your knees. Even though you’re tilted forward from the waist, you should be able to draw a straight line through the ears, shoulders, and hips. Now, inhale by sipping through an

imaginary straw, in one slow, noisy breath through your mouth. Allow your waist (front, sides, and back) to fully expand. Instead, you should feel your abdominal, back, and side muscles getting involved. Exhale with a gentle hiss (ssssss), letting those abdominal muscles do most of the work while keeping other areas still.

#Perfect your alignment

While sitting imagine a posture string is lifting you to a standing position with

only a slight tilt forward. Practice staying aligned while moving back and forth between sitting and standing. Putting one foot slightly forward will make this easier, but you will be feeling your core muscles (abs/back) and quadriceps (legs) doing the work. As you alternate between these exercises your posture and breathing will continue to become more efficient for singing, speaking and . . . life. Vocal exercises can dramatically improve your singing performance ensuring you deliver on the day.

Remember: Muscles have memory and practice makes permanent, no matter what you’re practising.

 

Breathing techniques for singing

Singing is all about having a good technique. Like any other sport you can train yourself to become better at it. How do you do this? Simple, you need to use various breathing techniques related to singing which help you exercise and train your lungs, vocal chords, diaphragm and help you with breath control to enable you to make your voice more powerful which means you can hold notes for much longer.

Before using any breathing techniques to help your singing you first need to learn some basic breathing techniques to help you breathe normally. These basics will teach you how the lungs, diaphragm and trachea all work together to help you breathe.

When you breathe in your lungs will fill up with air. This should be a natural process. Under no circumstance should you be sucking in your stomach to make room for your diaphragm. At this point your body extracts the oxygen from your lungs leaving only carbon dioxide which you breathe back out. Also, when you breathe out your diaphragm will gently squeeze the lungs to push the air out

To put in simple terms, you should be breathing deeply and exhaling all the waste carbon dioxide from your lungs without forcing it out. This is done to make room for the new fresh air that your draw with your next breath. The more you breathe in and the more you manage to breathe out will help you hold your notes much longer. Breathing naturally also affects your singing performance as your notes will not sound forced or as though you are shouting them instead of singing them.

Breathing correctly

A quick breathing technique will tell you if you are breathing correctly. To start with lie flat on your back. Place your hand on your stomach so your fingers touch.  Start breathing in, you will feel how your stomach and chest move as they are filled with oxygen. You will be breathing correctly if you notice your stomach filling with air and expanding upwards towards your chest so that you end up with your stomach concave and your chest puffed outwards.

This is how you breathe normally and from here if you find you are breathing poorly you should use this position to consciously alter how you breathe and force yourself to allow for that ‘rolling’ motion up your stomach into your chest. Using these breathing techniques singing you can then fix your general breathing to enable you to sing and talk with more power and with more available air.

However singing is quite different from breathing normally as it requires you to exhale for long periods of time and to control the rate at which you let air escape. This requires control and again this can be trained using breathing techniques.

Controlling your breath

By using the method described above, you can try to alter the speed at which you breathe and how you let air escape. While maintaining good technique, breathe in continuously for the count of five seconds, then hold your breath for five seconds, then exhale continuously for five and begin again. You will find that breathing out for five whole seconds can be tricky as you quickly run out of breath, it is here then that control comes in to play as you have to use your breath control to let the air out slowly enough that you can breathe out for that long. This is how you learn to make the best of the amount of air your lungs can hold when holding a note. As you improve you can then begin increasing the number to control your inwards and outwards breaths for longer or shorter periods of time, just as you will need to in order to fit the phrasing of various songs.

A similar exercise used by some singers to train control is to breathe using a steady rhythm then ‘sing’ a number on each outwards breath, counting to say 20. This again requires control and each time it comes round to a count you need to be ready to have the right amount of air ready. This means inhaling and exhaling the correct amount at a steady rate.

As well as using breathing techniques singing style to control your breath, you can also benefit from simply holding more air in your lungs and so should work on increasing your lung capacity. You can do this with cardiovascular exercise which will help train your lungs, as will swimming underwater and holding your breath. By combining a larger lung capacity with a greater ability to control your breathing you will be armed with the ability to hold your notes and project them loudly and proudly.

Of course like all forms of training, the best form is to keep practicing. If you want to get better at singing, and singing in a certain way, then simply make sure you do vocal exercises and carry out breathing exercises often and try to enjoy what you do. That is the best way to improve on every facet of your technique.

 

Vocal Warm ups – why bother with them?

Ask yourself a question. If a friend asked you to join them in a 10 mile run starting immediately, would you say yes straight away on your way to the start line or would you say ‘Let me warm up first and I will join you when I am ready’?

People seem to think that because they speak everyday they are exercising their voice so don’t need to bother with warm up exercises. How wrong they are! Talking on a daily basis is not the same as giving a speech. Neither is walking down to the post box to post a letter the same as running 10 miles. You may be using the same body parts but they are being used in an entirely different way.

If you are giving a speech and you want it to sound right then you should do vocal warm ups as part of preparation.

The benefits of vocal warm ups are minimising the possibilities of stumbling over words, forgetting what was coming next, and facing a fit of the nervous jitters. Vocal warm ups help you channel the natural adrenalin rush that comes from performing positively. Instead of being immobilised you can use it as fuel to boost your delivery.

When doing your vocal warm ups you should focus on the following three areas:

Body

Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, breathe in through the nose and bending from the waist allow yourself to flop like a rag doll while breathing out through your mouth. Shake any tension out of your arms, neck, shoulders and allow yourself to literally hang loose. And then breathing in through your nose very gently and slowly bring yourself upright, vertebrae by vertebrae, and breathe out through your mouth. Shake your arms and hands until they feel relaxed and warm and do the same with your legs. When exercising your shoulders, hunch them as high as your ears and then relax. Keep repeating until they feel at ease. Do gentle and smooth head rolls to exercise your neck. Smile as wide as you can to exercise the mouth.

 

Breath

Good vocal warm ups always involve becoming conscious of breathing patterns and establishing those that sustain and support the voice.

  • Stand with your feet a comfortable shoulder width apart.
  • Support the weight of your body through your hips and legs rather than locking your knees.
  • Consciously release and relax your shoulders.
  • If you’re holding your stomach in, let it go.
  • Place your hands on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose to the count of five. Count slowly. As you inhale feel your diaphragm rising.
  • Breathe out through your mouth to the count of five and now feel your diaphragm expanding.
  • Do several rounds of inhale and exhale while making sure you keep your shoulders, stomach and legs relaxed.

Voice

To warm your voice, unite the breathing exercise above with sound. Also, if you feel like it try a couple of tongue twisters, here is a great one:

You know New York,
You need New York,
You know you need unique New York.

In your lead up to speaking, complete all of your stage and prop checks and then aim to set aside a minimum of ten minutes for vocal exercise warm ups in a private quiet place before you take to the stage. You’ll find it works wonders for focusing, relaxing and settling any nervous tension.

 

How to do vocal warm up exercises

Just like athletes, anyone who sings should warm up correctly before any practice session and main performance.  You should go through a variety of warm up vocal exercises to loosen your voice and limber up your muscles to be able to be in the best condition for the performance.  A good warm up will take about tem minutes to complete.  Always start off gently. Don’t try and reach the high notes straight away as you will likely cause damage to your vocal muscles. Here are a number of steps to get your voice ready to perform.

  • Perform light exercise to loosen and relax your body. Jogging on the spot, swinging your arms and stretching are all good forms of physical exercise to get your blood flowing.
  • Make a yawn sound quietly at the top of your natural range.  Then slowly descend all the way to the bottom of your range. This one should be repeated between five and seven times.
  • Sing a note in your middle range using a vowel like ‘ah’. Then sing five notes up and five notes down.  Keep repeating until you are half a step higher, then another step and so on until you feel yourself stretching. However, don’t overdo it and stop before you get to a note that is too high for comfort.
  • Repeat the exercise, starting again from the middle of your range, but this time go down and then up a five-note scale. Sing each successive scale a half-step down until you reach the bottom of your range.
  • Work on flexibility. Sing “ah” on a note near the bottom of your range, then sing “ah” on the second note in the major scale. Return to the first note, and then sing the third note in the major scale. Return to the first note again. Continue until you jump an entire octave. Repeat the using each of the vowel sounds.
  • Sing a complete song gently.
  • After a few minutes of exercise your voice should be warm and ready to perform.

Following these simple vocal exercises will help you warm up correctly so when you do go out to perform you will be reaching all those notes correctly but more importantly singing in key.

Perfect vocal warm up exercises

If your ambition is to be a good singer then it is essential you do some vocal warm up exercises. You might be thinking ‘I have managed just fine without them so why bother now?’ The reason is simple, doing some simple vocal exercises will put you on the first step of the ladder of becoming a singer rather than just ‘someone that can sing’.

When singing your vocal performance will improve dramatically if you do your vocal warm up exercises. Look at it from a different angle. Just like swimming, running and cycling require you to warm up your muscles to avoid straining and hurting your muscles, the same applies to singing. You have to properly warm up your abdominal muscles so that they can work the air that comes through your vocal chords so you are able to generate the correct sounds when you sing.

Here are some simple vocal exercises that you can do to ensure your listeners hear the very best from your amazing singing voice.

Humming

You must be joking? In fact no we are not. However, the humming exercise is not the simple hum, there is a twist. You need to position your mouth in the correct position before humming.  So to start with keep your lips closed but loose. Start humming but try and get a feeling as though you are pushing the sound gently away from your stomach straight to the inside of your closed mouth. You will feel how it pushes making your relaxed lips vibrate.

Lip rolls

This is a great warm up exercise for the vocal chords and it is one you can have a bit of fun with too. What you need to do is imagine yourself under water blowing bubbles, weird we know but it really works.  You need to be relaxed otherwise if your lips are not relaxed you will not be able to do the lip rolls. While pushing the air up with your diaphragm you need to let your lips move freely doing a ‘brbrbrbr’ sound. Told you it was a fun one!

Scale singing

It worked for Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music when she was teaching the children the ‘Doh Reh Me’ song. When doing vocal warm up exercises scale singing is perfect to get you warmed up. Scale singing is when you go through different notes to make it easier for you to go further when you start singing.

These are just a few vocal exercises that you can do to warm up those vocal chords. Correct warm up exercises can help you give the perfect performance when you are out on that stage.

 

Breathing and vocal exercises for singers

One of the foundations of learning to sing correctly is knowing how to breathe correctly as well as learning how to correctly control the way you breathe so that when you are singing your breathing is being used to optimum effect.

As soon as we are born our breathing is naturally correct. A baby can breathe, yell and scream at optimum capacity because they are using their lungs without any conscious thought. However, as we grow older some people become lazy in how they breathe and breathe using only the upper part of their lungs – taking a shallow breath instead of a normal breath.

Understanding how to correctly breathe and use breath control, you need to first understand the process involved to help you achieve this. Our lungs are surrounded by a system of muscles known as the diaphragm. The diaphragm is attached to the lower ribs – on the sides, bottom and to the back acting as an inhalation device.  When we take a breath in the whole muscle lowers displacing the intestines and stomach and when you breathe out the diaphragm helps to manage the abdominal muscles surrounding the lungs control how quickly the breath is exhaled.

If you hold a finger close to your lips and breathe out slowly, your breath should be warm and moist and you should notice the action of the diaphragm as you exhale. For singing normally this is the correct amount of breath that should be used.  A singer does not need to ‘force’ or ‘push’ air through the vocal chords to produce a good strong sound, doing so creates too much pressure against the chords, preventing them from operating correctly which can cause damage to the voice.

Your stomach area should move naturally inward toward the end of the breath but it should not be sucked in as doing this will prevent the diaphragm working effectively. Instead the abdominal area should remain expanded to the level it was when you inhaled and allowed to gradually decrease naturally at the end of the breath.

At this point ‘control’ comes into play. As a singer you expand your lungs by inhaling therefore controlling the amount of air that is expelled when singing a note by allowing the muscle support system to remain expanded – this doesn’t mean the stomach is pushed out, rather that it is blown up like a balloon when the air goes in and the singer slows down the natural rate at which it goes down. In most people the breathing is shallow and only the top half of the lungs are used – breathing correctly uses the whole of the lungs so that more air is available, the singer then uses the natural action of the muscles (diaphragm and abdominals) surrounding the lungs to control the amount of air that is exhaled when singing a note.

Good breath support during singing and speech requires good posture, abdominal breathing and breathing during natural pauses. Breathing and correct support does not require great physical strength – although having toned abdominal muscles and doing some vocal exercises does help.

However, it is important to remember one thing…….the diaphragm doesn’t exhale for you – just helps to control the amount of air exhaled.