Singing is placing music on the breath.
Breathing is a matter of never-ending visualization, exercise and practice. We practice by alternating between taking in air slowly and quickly, holding it as long as possible, and regulating its rapid or gradual release. Breathing should not draw attention to itself but be relaxed and effortless. Deep breathing is by nature relaxing to the body. Shallow and quick breathing is invigorating and energizing.
A teacher of mine once suggested that the ultimate goal is to sing through 24 measures on a single breath. Learning how best to breathe is the challenge that every song provides.
Knowing where to breathe is easy when one is singing for words, for then the natural breaks reveal themselves automatically in the cadence of the language. To help me identify the best places to breathe inside a song, I speak the text aloud as I am learning it. As much as skiing is just another way of walking, singing is just another way of talking.
All the air we need to sing with is there. It exists in abundance in the space around our heads, our bodies. And all the time we need for getting the right amount of air is always there as well. Trusting in this comes simply with experience.
A person wishing to become a chanteuse must study the voice. A chanteuse who both sings and speaks her songs is continually in danger of damaging or even losing her voice if it does not rest on a solid foundation of technical training. It is, however, possible to over-train the voice. The principle behind most vocal regimes is to identify the singer’s voice and focus it, thereby whittling down to one the many voices we start with. Singers can in a way become more limited through study than expanded by it.
The antithesis of disciplined training is instinct – easily as valuable as training and perhaps more so. Unlike a trained voice, good instincts cannot be taught, but only acquired with life experience, mostly in the form of painful mistakes. If one has instincts about singing, they have likely come at a price. To allow instinct to be trained away is to squander good artistic investment.
To be able to color a song requires not one but many voices, perhaps many registers in a single song! For that, theatrical training is valuable. To be able to inhabit your body, to move it around, to animate your limbs with intention and grace, to stand still with ease and comfort – for this a study in dance is essential. Stagecraft is an inter-disciplinary pursuit. Learn from the actors, the dancers, the singers. We are here to teach each other.
Train, train, train and then leave the training. Revisit it from time to time throughout your life as you feel drawn, and as master teachers cross your path. Learn primarily by doing, by engaging, by succeeding and by failing. The stage and all whom you meet there, most especially the one inside your own skin, is your best teacher by far.