Every so often the same topics come circling around again. It is, of course, completely within the nature of teaching, as one is always saying the same thing wrapped up in different guises !
This week I seem to have been talking a great deal about breathing, the lifeblood of a fine singing technique. A number of my students have got to that place in their progress when one needs to move on to the next level of breath control.
Teaching abdominal breathing is not straightforward, but when it works it is supremely rewarding, and very exciting in terms of bigger and rounder tone quality as well as the obvious advantage of being able to sing longer phrases!
Bist du Bei Mir, which is attributed to Bach but not by him, is a perfect vocal vehicle for using new found muscle control. I love the song, with it's relentless and strong melodic line. It is that sheer relentlessness which makes it impossible to sing well if the breathing is not low and strong.
In my teaching I try to use pictures rather than reams of words. It definitely works well with youngsters, so I can see no reason why the same simplistic technique would'nt work just as successfully with sentient adults!
I ask my student to put their hand lightly upon their abdomen just around that place where a belt buckle might be, or where their tummy button is located ! I ask them to imagine that there is a ballon under the hand, and then I ask them to fill the balloon with air, so their hand pushes outwards as the fictitious and probably pink and sparkly balloon inflates !
That is the first step. The second is the tough bit. Now sing whilst keeping the balloon inflated - no collapsing until the end of the phrase or scale - that dear reader, is an accomplishment that takes many years to master, or at least before it becomes second nature !
You see, how complicated it sounds in words. If only I could show you by a simple video, how the 'balloon picture' really is the Mr Men version of teaching breath control!
I must say, those students who were put on the spot this week, re breathing, were very successful and left my musicroom with a real spring in their step! Lets hope the 'spring' lasts until next lesson, and they are not now resting from an excessive superfluity of oxygen and strained muscles !