Think less about how you take in the breath, and more about releasing all
compression, tension in the ribs and abdomen. This will create a "vacuum"
that the breath will automatically fill. Also, as you feel the breath
coming in, think about "filling" all the way around, so you feel the ribs
(esp. lower ribs) expanding forward, backward, and side to side. Really
focus your attention on these sensations, and "aim" the breath downward in
your mind. But the key thing is also completely releasing/relaxing the
tensions and compression in those muscles after you've finished singing a
phrase, i.e., to set up that "vacuum" I mentioned, and also so your body
will be free to allow the breath to move "low".
I think you'll find that by "allowing" the breath in instead of sucking or
gulping it (passive vs. active breathing), the breath will naturally go
deeper. "Taking" breaths seems to result in shallower breaths for some
reason. The other thing about allowing the breath in is that there is
much less risk of tightening in the jaw, neck, or tongue than when you
actively "take" the breath.
Think about how you breathe at any time other than singing. YOu *don't*
think about it - which is the point. Why is it that when we sing
breathing suddenly becomes this huge issue that requires all sorts of
concentration and effort. It's not because we don't know how to breathe.
It's because we don't know how to control the *emission* of breath.
That's what the breathing aspect of vocal technique is all about (or
should be): NOT about how we take the breath in (we do just fine at that),
but how we *keep* the breath in NOT by hold it, but by slowing the rate of
release/exhalation. This is done by compression, which keeps the
diaphragm lowered longer than it would be in "normal" breathing.
I've found my breath management has improved immensely since I've STOPPED
thinking about how I take the breath in, and started concentrating almost
exclusively on how I let the breath out, and on how I release the muscles
(abdomen, jaw, tongue, etc.) at the end of each phrase to create the
vacuum that the breath will naturally fill.
My NEIL SHICOFF Website:
We're sitting in the opera house;
We're waiting for the curtain to arise
With wonders for our eyes,
A feeling of expectancy,
A certain kind of ecstasy,
Expectancy and ecstasy....Sh's's's.
- Charles Ives