Management Of The Breath

Breathing in singing is a matter of the utmost importance. The breath is

the motive power, the primary force, to which the larynx and the

resonance chamber are but secondary. In speech we can manage with short

breathing and half-filled lungs, but in sustaining the sounds of song,

we need to breathe deeply, and to breathe in a right way. Manifestly the

act of breathing consists of two parts--(1) the drawing in, and (2) the

/> letting out of the breath. When we speak of modes of breathing, however,

we refer to the drawing in of the breath. There are three ways of doing

this. First, by lowering the diaphragm, and thus compelling the lungs to

enlarge and fill the vacant space created. Second, by extending the ribs

sideways, causing the lungs to expand laterally. Third, by drawing up

the collar-bone and shoulder blades, causing the upper part of the lungs

to expand. The third method is bad; the ideal breathing is a combination

of the first and second. Upon this athletes as well as singers are

agreed. This is the breathing which we practise unconsciously in sleep,

or in taking a long sniff at a flower. The musical results of bad

breathing are flattening and a hurrying of the time; hence the

importance of the matter. Practice may well begin with a few minutes

devoted to breathing exercises. Let the boys inhale a long breath

through the nose; hold it for a time, and then slowly exhale. Again let

them slowly inhale, hold, and exhale quickly, allowing the sides of the

chest to collapse. Again, let them, while holding the breath, press it

from the lower to the middle, and to the upper part of the chest, and

vice versa. During this exercise the body should be in the position of

"stand at ease." The spirometer, a useful but rather expensive little

instrument, measures accurately lung capacity. These breathing exercises

may be followed by practice in holding a single tone for a period just

short of exhaustion.