In the quest for vocal prowess, one often hears the term "support." But what does it really mean, and how can you harness its power to become a better singer? In this article, I'll delve into the essence of vocal support.
Defining Vocal Support
Let's start with the basics. Vocal support, in its simplest form, means controlling your breath to enhance your singing. The core concept is holding back the air in your lungs. This might seem paradoxical since we naturally breathe in and out. However, when it comes to singing, understanding and mastering breath control is pivotal.
The Purpose of Vocal Support
The primary purpose of vocal support is twofold. First, it enables your vocal cords to vibrate freely, protecting you from injury and discomfort. Secondly, it extends the duration between breaths, which is critical for seamless and expressive singing. Imagine singing a beautiful phrase without needing to pause for breath every few seconds; that's the magic of vocal support!
The Role of Intercostal Muscles
So, how do you achieve this essential support? I and my students rely on the activity of the intercostal muscles. These are the muscles situated between your ribs. When they contract, they expand your ribcage and with it your lungs, creating more space to hold air.
Visualize it like this: when you inhale, these muscles contract, pulling your ribs open and slightly upwards. This action effectively holds air in your lungs, thereby helping you control your breath during singing. Therefore, learning how to keep your ribcage open as long as you sing a phrase is essential for your support-capability.
Letting Go of Abdominal Tension
A fascinating aspect of vocal support is that it doesn't involve your abdominal muscles. In fact, it's best to keep your abdominal muscles relaxed. Whether you're singing high or low notes, loud or soft, your belly can remain loose. This might be a paradigm shift for some, as traditional singing techniques often emphasize engaging the abdominal muscles for support.
The under-pressure that is created in your lungs when supporting through opening your ribcage slightly pulls your vocal cords downwards, away from the vestibular folds. This prevents you from injuring your voice with vocal cord - vestibular fold contact when singing or speaking. I have laid out what that means and why it's important in detail in this article.
The Transition to Proper Support
If you've been using your abdominal muscles to sing or speak, transitioning to the intercostal muscles can be a bit of a challenge. Initially, you might experience a decrease in vocal volume and range as you adapt to this new approach. It's like learning to drive a car with a different transmission – it takes practice. But once you get the hang of it after a few weeks or months of continuous practice, the benefits will far outweigh your efforts of re-learning voice-support.
Practicing Voice-Support with the ribcage - without the involvement of any abdominal muscle action what so ever - has the following benefits:
A) You can sing longer phrases because you don't have to breathe every few seconds.
B) It enables your vocal cords to vibrate freely because they are pulled downwards, away from the vocal folds by the under pressure in your lungs.
C) And that will keep you healthy (no vocal cord-vestibular fold contact) and have a positive effect on your sound as well.
In summary, vocal support is about controlling your breath with the help of your intercostal muscles. This enables you to sing with greater clarity, extend your phrases, and keep your vocal cords functioning optimally. And remember, your belly can stay relaxed throughout this process.
Proper vocal support is your ticket to singing excellence. It allows you to unlock the full potential of your voice and convey your emotions through music.
If this made you curious to practically learn how to support, check out the YouTube video that corresponds to this article: