When we sing for any audience, breath is life – literally of course, but also the life of the sound depends on HOW we breathe.
Leading breath of the song: breathe in the pitch, breathe in the vowel.
Take natural, full-body breaths wherever possible. This means being aligned from the feet up, relaxing the abdomen to allow the diaphragm to fall, springing open the ribcage (from back to front) and releasing all accumulated tension in the body to reset to a poised, aligned stance that has a sense of potential energy without tension.
NEVER ‘snatch’ a breath. Personal Breaths are taken mid-note, mid-phrase and involve a PROPER breath. It takes no more time. It gives you the right amount of air instead of a tiny top-up and it releases tension instead of adding it.
NEVER ‘push’ your stomach out as you breathe in. That engages muscles not suitable for singing. The tummy FALLS naturally when you spring the ribcage and relax the diaphragm.
The ‘pregnant pause’ in the middle of a song is too often an excuse for the singers to HOLD their breath till the end of the pause, then breathe relatively quickly (and noisily) to start the new phrase. BREATH IS LIFE. Any time you are NOT breathing either in or out, you are technically DEAD. And this is where the philosophy of breath and energy gets involved…
When we sing, we are breathing out in an unusual way, and producing sound energy. Music also evokes an emotional response when performed well – let’s call that emotional energy. So our instrument is putting out huge amounts of physical, sound and emotional energy. Is that why we’re so drained by the end of the song? The fact is, we SHOULDN’T be drained, we should have MORE energy (be more pumped) at the end than at the beginning.
As a Showmanship tool, we talk about bringing in the emotional message of each phrase on the breath that precedes it (or even “cross-fading” into the previous phrase). I like to talk about inhalation being our only opportunity to TAKE IN ENERGY while we perform. Breath is life, so each breath we take during a song should come with a rush of energy, which we immediately transfer into the sound and emotional energy delivered in the phrase. So take in that emotional energy (with a spring-relax breath) before every phrase and you will feel your performance energy build and build.
So back to the LONG BREATH (nee pregnant pause)…. it can take a long time, but should be a slow, steady inhale of breath and energy, setting up the next phrase.
Breath also affects our unity. 75% of all synch problems are caused by confused breath plans, and at the higher levels, by lack of unit approach to breath style.
Lastly, without a relaxed body we cannot achieve vocal freedom. We cannot have a relaxed body if we breathe in a way which creates any tension. Remember that when you breathe, it should be a RELEASE, not a GRAB.