The real issue is how the vocal folds react to the breath. If they allow a
lot of air to escape (singing inefficiently) then you will not be able to
make long phrases. If they are allowing only enough air through for proper
phonation, you have a better chance. I believe this battle between the
expiratory muscles and the vocal folds is referred to as the "vocal contest"
or "lotta vocale." There is a balance to be found between "flow" of air,
and "resistance" to that air in the glottis. If you take in too much air,
you can "crowd" the lungs, and have too much pressure against the vocal
cords, causing either tension or extreme breathiness. By focusing less on
breath, some people are able to gain a better balance of forces, thereby
singing more efficiently, and therefore singing longer phrases with less
breath. There are also issues of how to maintain this balance, since there
is more natural (caused by the lungs themselves) air pressure at the
beginning of a phrase than there is at the end, when you have almost run out
of air. So, at the beginning of the phrase, you might have to activate more
of the inspiratory muscles, while you might have to activate more of the
expiratory muscles at the end of a phrase. However, simply working on
exhaling without phonating probably won't help you sing longer phrases.
Just my thoughts at the end of the day,
East Texas Baptist University
From: Lea Ann Martin [mailto:LeaAnn@k...]
Sent: Tuesday, February 05, 2002 3:35 PM
Subject: Re: [vocalist] Amount of air used in singing
I am curious about what people mean when they say "de-emphasize breath" or
use the same breath to sustain a phrase in singing you would when you speak.
How could you sustain a phrase at maximum volume with such a shallow breath?
My own breathing problems did not arise because I was too caught up on
breathing or nervous about breathing....they arose because I could not make
it to the end of a phrase on the amount of air I was taking in. To my mind
that would be me not thinking about breathing.
That's why I do they exercises: breath in on 5 beats exhale on 20 beats
etc. So that I can concentrate ongetting the maximum amount of air inside
so that I may sustain a long phrase in a forte.