If you are a vocalist, or play a woodwind instrument, you know that proper breathing plays an important role in quality tone production.
Of course we all breathe every day, awake or asleep, from the moment we enter the world. (many of us also snore too much, which suggests our breathing skills are a little weak!)……… More on that later.
How many people understand the mechanics of breathing? Oh sure, our ribs push out pulling air in and vice versa, our ribs pull in forcing air out. So far so good. What about the area called the nasopharynx? Hmmmm
That’s the route air takes from your uvula (that little punching bag in the back of your mouth) past your eustachian tubes (the air tubes leading to the back of your eardrums) and sinuses to your nose.
Tibetan Monks (you know the ones that sit in the lotus position and chant ohmmmm) and accomplished vocalists focus on this area for proper breathing.
This is where the fun begins! Did you ever try to hide a boredom yawn in church, at a business meeting, or during a school lecture? You kept your lips closed, chin down (like that fooled anybody) and yawned through your nose.
How close am I and are you chuckling yet?!
Actually, if you self induce what I just described you are well on your way to proper breathing! Did the area behind your uvula open up like you could put a ping pong ball there? Now breathe in and out this way a few times. Did your yawn expand to include one or both
eustachian tubes? Unique feeling! With a little practice you will control this. Now, add a low frequency hum and it will resonate right up to the back of your eardrum (your middle ear).
I’m betting your sinuses will also relax, open up, and resonate which singers refer to as the “mask,” or “mask resonance.” This is the proper breathing technique.
All this is connected to your embouchure which effects tone, tonguing, intonation, and dynamics! Our next blog will explain this interaction in detail.