As we know, the way to hell is paved with good intentions!  I have failed miserably to deliver the follow-up to my last blog, Breathe!, promising all the names and revealing all!  Well hang on, 'cause here it comes!

If you recall I said I could not resign myself to the only breathing technique available to me, diaphragmatic breathing.  I also told you that reading the first chapter of Jerome Hines marvelous book, "Great Singers on Great Singing" opened my eyes to a new approach!  I remember reading it and having that cold chill of recognition go up my spine. Here it is! The way I breathe. And here is some of what Mme. Licia Albanese had to say about "our" breathing technique:  First her denegration of diaphragmatic breathing (for her). . ."If you push down with the chest and abdomen. . .where do you get the breath?  I tried this years ago  (as did I!)  For me it did not work. (me neither, Licia). Expand down and push up to sing. . .you just don't get a good breath."  She went on to say "You should leave your belly in, expand your chest and back, and you should use your hands and arms in an upward sweep to get a full breath.  It is a taller feeling and pulls the shoulders back to a good posture".  This is the way I learned my new breathing technique, and was eventually able to replacate the taking of the breath without always expanding my arms.  But that sweep outwards of the arms is an amazing feeling, if you haven't tried it!  There is so muc more of what she said that i would like to capture here, but I will confine myself to the most stunning of her revelations.  She goes on to say she believes that the so-called "placement" of the voice comes from the breath! And when Hines observed "You don't use your lips much when you sing, do you?"  To which she repleid, "Good vowels are made from the throat, not in the mouth."  If you are or have been a student of mine, you have herd me say this. . .endlessly!

But I digress!  So for some few years I continued to sing and grow as a singer, finally being able to use my breath, as advised my Mme. Albanese.  I Found that those first few minutes onstage, when the nerves are still present, having my lifted chest, and pulled in abdomen to cut me off from anything but my breath, calmed me and enabled me to sing through those first few nervous moments, after which you could not have pulled me from the stage!
A wonderful coach I had in Frankfurt, James Pearson, was leaving for another opera house, and wanting to divest himself of some of his belongings, gifted me with a book. . ."The Singing Voice" by Robert Rushmore.  Reading one day I came upon a section devoted to breathing.  After dismissing clavicular breathing saying" saying vocal experts condemn it as inadequate and unsuitable for singing."  You know this type of breathing. It sounds like a series of little gasps from the upper chest and is heard now and again from newscasters. But it has one use for us. . .he says. . . "a cunning singer falls back on this type of breathing when he cannot manage a long phrase  Not wishing to break it, he takes a barely imperceptible half or 'catch' breath.  When you have read what comes next, I will refute this ever so slightly.  And then I read. . .

"A second kind of breathing goes under such names as 'lateral or 'Intercostal'". . .this last what I now call it.
Intercostal breathing.  He goes on to say that "a fanatical believer in this type of breathing for singing, issues these exhortations to her students:  Draw in the abdomen below the navel, as well as the navel itself, and keep them thus always, for the rest of your life."

Thee is so much more to this way of breathing. . .including the belief that it was the choice of the early great bel canto singers and of the wonderful castrati.  "The words of Manuel Garcia II that the chest should be lifted and the abdomen drawn up and in while taking breath are also frequently quoted by his fervent disciples in support of the intercostal breathing method.

In my next blog I will do some explaining why this works.  As well as the pitch for diaphrgmatic breathing which does work for some singers. . .esp. men.So hang in there.  We're getting there.  But at least you have a name for my breathing technique now.


Leave a Reply.