Breathing: What the Singer Should Remember

  1. Avoid, at first, any ‘systems of breathing’ (in practise and in print) that require mechanical, or methodical practising; most of them run contrary to nature.

  2. Do not pump yourself full of air when about to sing. It will not give you a longer breath, nor will the tone be stronger or carry better.

  3. If you make a habit of taking in a lot of air, of holding it and hoarding it, you will eventually weaken your breathing organ and, in consequence, your throat as well.

  4. Learn to discriminate: the work done by the organ of breathing must be extremely thorough and intensive – the consumption of breath extremely small. (‘I take no more breath for singing than I do when smelling a flower.’ – Mattia Battistini, one of the last great exponents of bel canto.)

  5. Learn, therefore, to distinguish carefully between the breathing organ and breath. Remember that the old concept, of the pressure of breath as the motive power in giving voice, has been disproved by modern science.* The singing mechanism is not a wind instrument. Remember instead that ‘the vocal folds are capable of vibrating independently of the current of breath’. Therefore, notes or phrases that end unevenly or explosively have been wrongly produced.

  6. Above all: do not breathe in deliberately. Aim first at breathing out properly and, because of the law, the ‘tonic regulation of the breath’, you will find that breathing in follows automatically and correctly.

  7. Remember that a properly functioning larynx to a great extent trains and regulates your breathing; therefore, the tone must be well ‘placed’.

  8. Breathing exercises without the voice have a limited value; do not waste too much time on them.

  9. A system of breathing that in time distorts the figure, instead of improving it, is always wrong (e.g., chronically protruding stomach, hollow back, curved spine).

Husler, Frederick, and Yvonne Rodd-Marling. “Singing: ThePhysical Nature of the Vocal Organ.” (1965).


*blogger’s note: The neurochronaxic theory of voice production was highly popular in the 1950s when this book was written. Introduced by Raoul Husson, these theories have largely been discredited in favor of today’s myoelastic and aerodynamic theories. For more information, click on this link.

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