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TS- What is your view on "support"??

September 23 2009 at 11:15 PM
Anonymous  (Login sopranogrl25)
NFCS Member

 
I was going to ask you this in an email but then I figured everyone else might be interested too.

I've heard so many push in, push out, blah blah blah. I don't really teach any of that, but I'm interested in what you think about this and what has been proven to you through your study of this.


    
This message has been edited by sopranogrl25 on Sep 23, 2009 11:18 PM


 
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TS
(Login Toreadorssong)
NFCS Member

Re: TS- What is your view on "support"??

September 24 2009, 12:36 AM 

A wonderful teacher I know once said there is no support without adequate phonation. He was completely right. But it is obviously more complex than that.

What we call "support", "connected to the body", etc is a feeling of balanced lung pressure. Let us try to understand the structure we are dealing with.

In the middle: The lungs which contain the air that is to be pressurized

above: The vocal folds that close

Underneath: The diaphragm attached to the bottom of the lungs (and the ribs attached around)

Further below: The viscera and abs that act as a floor for the entire system.



The ribcage and the diaphragm work naturally without our help. What we need to control are the following:

1) Make sure the air in the lungs is ready for pressurizing (i.e. that is remains directly beneath the vocal folds) this is were the lower abs come in.

2) Make sure the folds are set-up properly to generate balanced pressure/flow.

A. The folds first: They must be able to achieve proper depth for every pitch such that no squeezing is necessary. If the folds are vertically too thin, they will be set up for a higher pitch than desired and then pressing will be necessary to slow down the vibration cycles to achieve the desired pitch. So our greatest job in terms of support is to build the strength in the vocalis and CT to accomplish the balance between them that produce the correct depth (weight if you will). That means that the CT must be strong enough to stretch the folds while they are being thickened by the vocalis. This is the part that takes time. Most singers sing a high range that is too thin. The lighter the voice the less the difference. So lighter voices can get away with more. Big voices have problems because it is obvious when they sing too thin, because it does not match the lower range. Building a full high range is the time consuming muscle building job. Thin singing produces a glottal squeeze that stops the air. Too heavy is rarer because it requires breathy phonation to maintain pitch.

In short balanced phonation means accomplishing full voice throughout the range that allows normal air flow/pressure. Enough connection to the body, not too much like when the voice is pressed.

B. Now the abs and viscera: If the abs go out during inhalation, they must come back in for singing because every time they go out the diaphragm will contract lower and lung pressure will reduce. One technique is this "out and in" technique of the abs. It reflects the way we naturally breathe and there is nothing wrong with it except that the abs can get tired. My approach to this is to keep the abs in the entire time (not tightening them, just pulling them in). This keeps the floor of the system higher and prevents the diaphragm from descending too low. This puts more responsibility on the external intercostals to help expand the ribcage further. The result is that the breath remains close to the vocal folds and prevents the pressing that can occur when air pressure is too low. The folds will squeeze to create pressure when pressure is lacking.

When the abs are in and the folds are set up properly the only variables will be the ribcage and diaphragm which respond to our basic need to breathe.

In short, keep the abs in, produce a "full" tone on every pitch (loud or soft does not change this). When this is done, the only other factor is icing on the cake. Adequate vowel/space choice helps the flow/pressure balance. This is the concept of supra-glottal inertial air (which I have talked about a lot).

TS



Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

TS's Bloghttp://tsvocaltech.blogspot.com


    
This message has been edited by Toreadorssong on Sep 24, 2009 2:52 AM


 
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Larry the Larynx
(Login Larry_The_Larynx)
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Wow

September 24 2009, 1:40 AM 

Why is it that I learn something from almost every one of your posts, TS? Seriously. I hope you will write a book some day!



-Ler

"The history of the lowered larynx is a long and depressing one..." - Richard Miller, International Schools of Singing

 
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TS
(Login Toreadorssong)
NFCS Member

Thanks Larry! I am working on one

September 24 2009, 2:58 AM 

My goal is to put this in a language that is both logical and easy for the average reader to follow without getting so simplistic that it loses credibility.

There is a lot that goes into writing a book that is informative and an easy read. I am in the planning stage.

I appreciate your very kind comment. I have learned much from your posts as well.

TS

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

TS's Blog:http://tsvocaltech.blogspot.com

 
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Anonymous
(Login sopranogrl25)
NFCS Member

A few questions...

September 24 2009, 10:23 AM 

TS,
You are fantastic. Thank you so much for a detailed yet as you said readable answer.

A few questions:
1. So you are saying to keep the abs in. Does this mean that when taking a low breath it's actually felt higher?
2. Does the diaphagm go back up during exhalation? I've heard from some teachers to keep it going down.
3. When you say the breath is TOO low what does this mean? Are you going against the idea of low breath?

Just trying to understand even more.

The main reason I wanted to know about this is because I teach students all the time who come in grabbing their lower abs trying to "support" and it creates pressed phonation/gripping big time from where some teacher has taught them to breathe low and then contract their abs in. I believe like you said that if the phonation is correct the "support" will work automatically.

Thank you so much!
And I agree...you should write a book!

 
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TS
(Login Toreadorssong)
NFCS Member

Wonderful questions

September 24 2009, 3:11 PM 

The voice is paradoxical sometimes.

1. The "feeling" of a low breath I think is misunderstood. Consider the amount of energy it takes an obese person to A) keep the abs in and B)contract the diaphragm down against the girth of the viscera and fat! Much of the argument for a low breath comes from that premise.

Also, the sensation of the Rectus Abdominus pulling on the pelvis as anchor as it contracts and pull down on the sternum/ribcage during inhalation/singing is the important part of "low breathing". It is a sensation that is based on how much work the RA has to do. It is much more work when a great girth is in the way, and only significant work for the thinner person at the end of a long phrase.

Also 2, if we follow normal breathing and release the abs as is advocated by many teachers then there will be a feeling of low in the abs. But as previously said, the abs have to come back in for support during singing and there is no absolute need for this except when a girth makes it easier to let the abs relax during inhalation. I advocate the abs in as an issue of efficiency, but a singer who carries a lot of fat in the mid section might find it easier to release the abs during inhalation. Either way, we should not be absolute about it.

Also 3, With the abs kept in, the lung cavity fills up more easily and the lungs go as far down as the lumbar region of the spine. In that sense one will feel a low breath but in the back rather than in the front.


2. The diaphragm indeed relaxes upward during exhalation and singing. Whatever may be said of the diaphragm, it responds to our need to breath. It is the most innervated muscle in the body and we do not have conscious access to it the way we have other skeletal muscles. It responds to a specific need to do a work that involves it. The diaphragm does not go down during singing. However when we sing a full-tone (correct laryngeal set-up) the air pressure kicks back from the glottis downward and we feel as if suddenly there is a downward feeling against the abs. When you phonate well, you can feel the back pressure at the epigastrium (soft spot right below the sternum).

3. If I said the breath is "too low" I must be referring to allowing the abs to come out which would allow the diaphragm to contract more deeply into the body. This increases lung cavity but also reduces air pressure. What we want is air pressure right below the fold, ready to be used. So in that sense I would be against a "low" breath that causes a reduction in air pressure.

Your point is well taken regarding the gripping that occurs when the abs are contracted (they bulge). This is not what I am advocating. In fact that kind of bulging originates at the glottis. The bulging of the abs happens as pressure is increased by pressing the folds together. Without breathing, just pull the abs in as if trying to hide your gut. Notice there is no tension involved with this action. Now try to tense the abs. That is altogether a different action.

TS

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

TS's Blog:http://tsvocaltech.blogspot.com

 
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Anonymous
(Login sopranogrl25)
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Ok, I think I understand.

September 24 2009, 4:58 PM 

Thank you so much TS for your time in explaining this!

1. Maybe I'm not understanding when you say "keep the abs in." For me to do that it immediately creates tension at folds so I must not be understanding that completely. When you said to pull in as opposed to tensioning. To pull in I feel like I have to tension. Are you saying to just leave them where they are naturally or actually pull them in?

2. The "low" breath. You never told me that my breath was too low. I was just commenting on what you said in the previous post. So your "perfect" breath/support would be to breathe more in the back/lower back rather than the front and feel the expansion there. How low in the back? So we aren't supposed to be pulling anything in consciously correct?

I hope I'm understanding what you are saying. Thanks so much!


    
This message has been edited by sopranogrl25 on Sep 24, 2009 4:59 PM


 
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TS
(Login Toreadorssong)
NFCS Member

Each anatomy is different

September 24 2009, 7:36 PM 

You may have tensions that prevent you from pulling the abs in without excessive tension. I would have to see you live to understand why you cannot do this. I do Bikram Yoga, and part of the postures is to keep the abs in (better support for the spine). So this is rather simple for me. I have always been able to do this but I do not take it for granted that it is easy for everyone.

I will only say that pulling in the abs (without singing) should not put any stress on the larynx. From the in position, then take a breath and you should feel the lungs expand all the way to the lower back (lumbar region).

TS

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

TS's Blog:http://tsvocaltech.blogspot.com

 
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Mezzolini
(Login Mezzolini)
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Fascinating...and related to a previous thread...

September 25 2009, 12:23 PM 

http://www.nfcs.net/forumindexframe.html

Featuring a Youtube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3xyp54bZqs where Nathan Gunn's abs are in clear view for a whole scene of the Pearl Fishers. The short version:
OP: look how wonderfully in and out his lower abs are! Too bad the other guy's abs don't move as much.
TS: Actually, the other guy's breath is much more efficient--he's not pumping the lower abs in and out like a bellows.

I can see, especially with the breath at 2:16-17, both singers' ribcages move nearly identically. Nathan Gunn's lower abs come out a whole lot, though, and then they have to move right back in--it's not gradual at all. If you look at them side by side this way, it does seem like more than the necessary effort.

I think a couple of people are confusing this pumping of the lower abs with the expansion of the upper abs and ribcage. I think, if you try to hold it all in, then tension will travel upwards. But (as I've learned from belly dancers) it's quite possible to isolate different muscles in the abdomen without creating tension that travels to the shoulders.

Also: is this the reason why overweight singers can lose their support when they lose large amounts of weight? I've always wondered about that. If they are used to the extra padding providing the pressure, they might be at a loss as to what to do when it's no longer there.

I'm thinking there's also an explanation in there as to why I, years ago, spent hours isolating and working on my breathing--with no appreciable improvement in my voice.


 
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TS
(Login Toreadorssong)
NFCS Member

Very astute observation

September 25 2009, 11:58 PM 

Precisely the point about the movement happening at the upper abs near the epigastrium.
There is movement as I mentioned relative to the epigastrium and a gentle movement of the upper abs as well.

I think your precision is important. It is indeed the lower abs that I pull in. This in no way impede the natural motion of the diaphragh/intercostal systems.

Thank you for this precision. One of my students also reminded me today that the pulling in of the lower abs is a function of the transverse abdominus, which is correct since the rectus pulls downward on the sternum toward the pelvis (its point of origin).

TS

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

TS's Blog:http://tsvocaltech.blogspot.com

 
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TS
(Login Toreadorssong)
NFCS Member

The problem here is that many of us were reared on specific ideas about support

September 25 2009, 11:09 PM 

Myself included. The breathing mechanism is a very complex system and although it might seem that my abs-in idea is so far-fetched, it is not. It does not necessary discount what we know about the mechanism but rather is based on a fuller understanding of it paradoxical nature.

Abs-in does not interfere with the spontaneous nature of the breathing mechanism when the entire system is flexible. Yoga actually taught me a great deal about the flexibility of the breathing mechanism and I was able to find support for this in scientific research.

What the pedagogy books tell us about breathing is very superficial at best. There is a great deal more to be discovered about breathing and I certainly do not know everything about breathing or singing for that matter. But what I say, I can "support" with a logical explanation, and believe it or not, I do not teach this to everyone. It is a rather advanced technique I find beneficial for singers who already have excellent breathing coordination. This makes no sense unless other elements work well (phonation especially).

I welcome a good discussion and I have always welcomed disagreement when it is well formulated and supported. There is much more beyond what we read in Miller or Vennard, so much more that is available that we have not avail ourselves of as a body of voice professionals. My personal aim is to bring some of these issues to the fore. Not everyone is interested in a more profound discussion and that is fine.

Those who think they have it all figured out will always try to discredit what they do not understand.

As with breathing and every other aspect of singing, each singer experiences a technical issue based on where they are in their experience. I see things very differently than I did when I sang as a baritone. Although the fundamentals have not changed, many specifics have for me.

I was expressing an opinion based on a question addressed to me, not an irrefutable directive.

TS

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

TS's Blog:http://tsvocaltech.blogspot.com

 
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schnoodc
(Login schnoodc)
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Not far fetched at all

September 26 2009, 10:07 PM 

TS's ideas about the role of the lower abdominals in breath management are shared by some very prominent teachers and singers. There is, I'm afraid, a lot of confusion out there when it comes to singing anatomy that often complicates these sorts of conversations. I still make mistakes even after taking a voice science class and having to name all of the primary/secondary support muscles in an exam!

I remember being in a seminar with a prominent vocologist/voice rehabilitation specialist in New York who works with top-level classical singers and hearing her describe the method of support she advocates. She spoke of a pelvic floor/obliques release on inspiration to encourage a released larynx, but did not protrude the lower abdominals noticeably when she demonstrated this. Instead she spoke about the core strength she feels with this breathing strategy, which she attributed to the work she did in the martial arts. I think there are some definite similarities to TS's strategy here as well.

I especially appreciate TS talking about the enormous importance that glottal efficiency plays in correct "support". Without this, you get a lot of oversupporting/overblowing and larnyx locking (I have personal experience with this!). If there is one idea I think more American teachers need to spend time exploring, this is the one.


 
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PinoNoir
(Login PinoNoir)
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I breathe like you, and so does my teacher

September 27 2009, 7:36 AM 

I have also heard and seen in masterclass Italian voice teachers advocate this way as "appoggio." I have tried other ways and they just never worked for me. As a matter of fact, my teacher and my previous teacher, advocated the same kind of breathing, and both had international careers of 40 years. I personally think that there is too much knee jerk response when it comes to breathing. If it works for a singer and they get the most efficient breath for him/her, then I don't see why people get on the attack mode. I think it is healthy for voice teachers to discuss and try different kinds of breathing, because they may get a student who just cannot breathe like he/she does. What do you do in that case? Write the student off as an idiot? Recommend another teacher? Or do you work with what they can do and find a way that they can breathe/support efficiently?

 
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schnoodc
(Login schnoodc)
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Exactly

September 27 2009, 8:25 AM 

There was a study published in Journal of Voice several years ago where they took a group of classical singers who were actively working in opera houses, asked them about their breathing strategies and then tested their muscular activity while singing. The researchers found not only a large amount of variation between the singers' breathing styles, but also significant discrepancies between what some singers described as their style and what they were actually doing.

This is clearly an area where singers have, over a number of centuries, struggled to describe accurately. Some of the singers in the study had very compatible views about breathing (according to their descriptions), but differences in personal anatomy/fitness levels translated to different levels of muscle usage.

 
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kaya_rose
(Login kaya_rose)
NFCS Member

Well, I gotta say

October 2 2009, 3:10 AM 

I've been trying this out ever since the thread first appeared, and while it felt different at first I am now feeling like I'm in much more control of my breath. I can sing through longer phrases and the tendency to push is greatly diminished. My abs aren't feeling fatigued at all and it isn't creating any tension anywhere. Thank you once again!

 
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trem
(Login trem0lo)
NFCS Member

so many answers

September 24 2009, 2:09 AM 

It depends on the teacher, it depends on the singer. I don't teach professionally but I'm a big nerd when it comes to this stuff, and it's helped my singing a lot.

My experience is the one must pull in the lower abs near the pelvis, as Lamperti advocates. This, balanced with a low diaphragm, is what powers the appoggio, that "echo" feeling in the chest or behind the sternum that enriches the harmonics of the voice. It pressurizes the cords and keeps tension out of the throat. Everything above the lungs should stay relatively untouched by muscular action.

A number of famous singers spoke about the importance of keeping the diaphragm low, or at least preventing it from rising. Correlli talked about a "plate" that is actively pushed down against the diaphragm, and Caruso talked about keeping the breath very low in the body. This indicates that using strong breathing and pelvic support to "oppose" the natural tendency of the diaphragm to rise is very important. Don't quote me on this (still learning) but I think it's related to the tracheal pull that lowers the larynx.

An active expansion of the ribcage also seems important, to encase and secure all that intense breath pressure. Once it collapses, no more appoggio, no more high notes, and the entire balance gets thrown off until the next breath.

Miller calls all of this maintaining the "position of inhalation." Personally, it's a lot more complicated than that.

 
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Bellady
(Login Bellady)
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Splat!?

September 25 2009, 6:39 AM 

This is such an interesting discussion! What about this 'splat' thing? When you are supposed to release the muscles or allow the muscles to release on the inhale?

Because if you pull the abdomen as you phonate, and then keep it in that position to breathe in - isn't that creating tension? When I try this my shoulders raise and the breath feels very high!

If the belly button is drawing inwards, surely it has to pop back out again to ensure even pressure on the next breath?

 
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TS
(Login Toreadorssong)
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There are many wrong ways to do anything

September 25 2009, 8:30 AM 

I teach this regularly and with good results. It is often difficult to do something totally different. I was raised on the pumping abdomen and sang like that for years. It is not wrong but it is also not as efficient.

Your shoulders should not and need not rise for this.

Finally beginning with the abs in before the inhalation, the purpose of which is to create a higher floor for the whole system. The breath will certainly fill the entire lung cavity from lower back to uppere torso. If you have not had that sensation of a full breath, it might feel high, partly because we tend to be less aware of expannsion in the lower back.

TS

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

TS's Blog:http://tsvocaltech.blogspot.com

 
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singerteacher
(Login singerteacher)
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In what way is it less efficient?

September 25 2009, 10:01 AM 

I'm all for using less effort to sing, but I can't see how using muscle energy on the inhalation could be more efficient that a relaxed inhalation. In one case, the muscles are tightened; in the other case, they are relaxed. Won't the muscles eventually become fatigued if they don't have a moment to rest?

Maybe this is a technique for advanced singers? I teach mainly beginners, and I find it's crucial to get them to relax their abdominals on the inhalation. They hold so much tension there! Also, many of them have virtually no breath support when they start, and instead are using throat tension to create volume. Again, it's crucial that they learn to use support, and hence the diaphragm/abdominals, instead of their throats to control air flow.

However, I agree completely that all of this can be overdone. Beginning students sometimes need to scale back their support, because they're overdoing it and are blowing so much air through the cords that they can't phonate properly! I've also been convinced that your idea of letting the resonance drive the breath/support is extremely helpful. If a student wants good resonance, she/he will breathe and support in just the right amounts to create it.

 
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Bellady
(Login Bellady)
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I agree, it sounds a bit intercostal...

September 25 2009, 10:17 AM 

If you 'hold' the epigastrum in on the inhale, it just creates tension and the breath becomes high... surely?... this is exactly what happens in everyday life when we feel emotionally tense - and the upper chest takes over. Holding anything tense for a long time causes muscle fatigue, and also this must increase subglottal pressure?

If there is a good reason behind this - could you expalin the benefit of it?

Thanks


 
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