If you have ever taken voice lessons, you probably spent a large amount of time focusing on the most integral part of singing: breathing. Being aware of your breath is something that is crucial to a successful audition, and not only for the singing component. Aside from the steady flow of oxygen to your brain, your breath is what grounds you and helps to maintain your focus, especially in high stress and audition/performance settings.
Taking a good breath is more than just making sure you don’t lift up your shoulders, and it’s more than just sticking out your belly when you inhale. A deep and supported breath should expand into your lower back as well as your lower abdomen. If you can imagine your waistline as the bottom of an empty glass of water, you want the breath to pour inside and fill up evenly on all sides, from the bottom of the glass to the top. Now that you have taken a proper breath, it’s time to decide how to use it to your benefit.
For nerves, jitters, anxiety and all of the other little feelings that like to creep up in an audition setting, breathing is your best friend. The key is to allow your exhale to be longer than your inhale. Start with a proper breath in through your nose for 4 beats. Then form your lips into a small “o” as if you were drinking out of a straw and exhale evenly over the course of 8 beats. Allow your brain to focus solely on your breath, your core, and nothing else. After a few of these, you should feel more calm and in full control of your body.
When you are practicing your monologues and songs, force yourself to be aware of each breath that you take and make sure that it is a well supported one. Just like anything else, these breaths will become a part of the muscle memory in the performance of the piece. When you are in the heat of the moment you want to be able to count on your body to still take a proper breath. To acquire this muscle memory, it takes a lot of practice and discipline. Challenge yourself to breathe correctly even when you are singing in the shower or to your favorite song on the radio.
For singing specifically, breath is the key to delivering a well-supported sound that is in tune. Taking better breaths can solve most pitch issues in singing, especially going flat. You also may notice that you will start to have more control over your own voice, which will allow you to create more colors within your sound. When singing, the exhale is just as important as the inhale. When you have taken in a proper breath, it is important to engage your lower pelvic muscles as you exhale. This allows your diaphragm to support your air from below, so that you can sing “on” your breath.
How can you tell if you aren't singing on your breath? Listen to yourself and see if you can hear "non-pitched" air escaping before, during, and after each note. Be aware, however, that this airy quality is something we hear everyday in popular music so you may have to listen very closely.
Feel exhausted yet? Learning and using proper breathing technique is no easy thing! Don’t be discouraged if you feel tired or light-headed. Just take a break and pick it up again when you feel ready. Just like muscle building, you can’t do this overnight. In the mean time, if you have any questions or want some more breathing tips and exercises let me know!
Break legs, and breathe well!
My College Audition
16 Bars and Under Two Minutes