Before any singer can progress with their skill, they need to have mastered the art of managing their breath control – whether its for slow ballads or for racy, powerful torch songs.
There is one, key question that should guide all singers …’how much breath do I need for this phrase and how long does it need to last?’
Beyoncé teaches is that this question really can be answered even for a really demanding dance routine. Here are four lessons for all of us:
1. Use Physical Movement to Connect Your Breath to Your Singing
You can see Beyoncé apply this principle in the video (below); at first she is not quite connected to her breath – her breath is short and the tone aspirate (breathy)
Notice at 0.19 how she claps slowly with her hands above her head. This is a brilliant way to start engaging her body and various muscle groups in her singing.
She allows the audience to sing back to her and is gathering strength – she’s connecting …
Beyoncé is building an instant physical confidence by accessing the core or ‘zip up’ muscles in her pelvis and abdomen.
The pulling up, clapping action helps to do this this quickly and effectively – now she’s got the feeling of deep support she needs to continue.
Also, Check out the move on 1.50 of the video – she regains some deep connection to her core and to her breath support with this extensive stretch.
As she stretches she can inhale – a good deep breath that opens up the rib cage and the abdomen. This gives the feeling that the breath is reaching down to the hips!
Beyoncé believes in herself; she knows that application of these actions will help her to sustain a strong and well-managed flow of sound as she moves around the stage.
2. Don’t Use Your Larynx to Force Out Sound
Many young or inexperienced singers end up pushing their larynx to force sound out of a body that has run out of breath, due to the demands of dance or movement.
This, in turn, creates tension that creates closure of important muscles in the larynx.
To keep those muscles free, open and relatively relaxed, the experienced singer will take their breath as and when they can in the song’s phrasing and will allow the muscles of the ribcage and abdomen to expand freely.
Just study some close up shots of Beyoncé in action. Check her breath patterns and listen for the quality of the intake – you’ll see it all right there!
This avoids any unnecessary ‘holding’ that can create unwanted tension, and allows us to store the right amount of breath (not too much and not too little) for the song phrases, deep in the body.
3. Connect to the real feelings you have to draw the best breath
Singers who are enduring a gruelling schedule will also make sure they are connected emotionally to the point of the song at any given moment, so they can use their natural ‘human’ energy to get the message across.
Don’t forget, most children can yell, sing, cry and generally make noise all day long because they have an unabashed connection to their emotion centre.
Sometimes singers need to reconnect to ‘the child within’; watching Beyoncé – I think she has done this; she is hugely emotional at all points of her performance!
4.Stretch Your Muscle Groups Before, During and After Singing
Beyoncé does a few knee dips in the guise of encouragement as she addresses the audience – these require full body flex from her – stretching all the muscle groups that support her breath … she’s prepping and steadying her breath – see 0.29 in the video below.
Around 3.20 in this video – she begins slow arm stretches through some sustained phrases that require longer breath and deeper intervals – (so far much of the song has been short stab-phrasing).
Many of these actions will come naturally to Beyoncé as she will have been coached for some time … so she is not necessarily planning these moves – she has already made that deeper connection between mind and body – voice and muscle that becomes a part of her natural performance
So, she automatically ‘knows’ what to do … this takes time and dedicated practice.
One exercise many of my students use to help to get them ground their singing in their various muscle groups is something I have named ‘Tin Soldier’
* Stand straight but keep knees loose and neck long
* Raise the arms straight and stiff like a tin soldier on the inward breath
* Make sure the upper arms are beside your ears
* Exhale on a silent ‘OH’ shape, keeping your posture erect (avoid pushing your abdomen forward)
* As you exhale, pull the arms up further as much as you can
* Feel the inner core stretch
* Repeat several times – daily!
Rachel Bennett is a London-based vocal coach and singer songwriter. She is the lead singer / songwriter of RAIE and a Musical Director for theatre, television & recording studios across London. She has associations at WAC Performing Arts and Media College and Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. You can learn more about Rachel on her Website or Facebook.