« Anatomy of Breathing, Part 2: Releasing the Breath | Main | Workshop: Taming the Wayward Tongue 4/19/2011 »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

David Johnson

Thank you for this series! Regarding item 2: In my medical school pulmonology course, we were taught that excess body fat affects respiration primarily by the additional weight it puts on the rib cage. This compressive force would certainly increase subglottal pressure relative to a leaner singer's. By contrast, any downward force on the diaphragm would exert an expansile force on the lungs and _decrease_ subglottal pressure. I am not familiar with primary literature that suggests otherwise; could you suggest some sources?

Claudia Friedlander

Thanks, David - I'll dig through my sources and see what I can share, but I'm not one to contradict info presented in a medical school pulmonology course!

The important thing for singers to understand is that yes, excess weight does confer a certain advantage for singing by compressing the breath (whatever the specific physiological reasons may be) - but that there are other, better ways to achieve this. Contrary to the fading stereotype, you don't have to be fat to be an opera singer.


Your whole premise of what creates an exhale is wrong.

You use the example of a spray can with compressed air inside to explain how the human body exhales: "Breath management is the ability to increase subglottal air pressure – to compress the air in your lungs so that will behave more like the air inside the can – and then regulate the level of subglottal air pressure while singing. "

"Subglottal air pressure" is not what makes the air leave the body, and the body is not a rigid container like a can. In normal breathing, there is actually no pressure differential between the subglottal space and the atmosphere because the air is in constant motion to equalize that pressure. The only way to approximate what you describe would be to take a super-deep inhale, hold it in, and reduce the volume of the thoracic cavity by bearing down strongly - thus increasing the inter-thoracic pressure relative to the outside. That would certainly result in "an intense burst of air..." flowing out of your body - but I would hardly call that normal breathing or good voice technique.

The cavity system of the body breathes because it changes shape - unlike a can which cannot change shape and permits its gaseous contents to be compressed within it.

A human exhale is the result of a release of the elastic forces that are stored in the lung tissue, ribcage and abdominal cavity during the act of inhaling. How a teacher of breath and voice does not grasp this simple fact is a mystery to me. You may get results with your teaching techniques, but that's a separate mystery.

Claudia Friedlander

I did not use the example of a spray can of compressed air to explain how the human body exhales. My explanation of how the human body exhales is outlined in my previous post (http://www.claudiafriedlander.com/the-liberated-voice/2011/04/anatomy-of-breathing-part-2-releasing-the-breath.html). I also did not say that subglottal air pressure is what makes the air leave the body.

This post is not about exhaling. It is about creating optimal conditions for vocal fold response, which requires eliciting the Bernoulli Effect. There is a good description of this here: http://www.voicesource.co.uk/article/151.

For singers to do this, it is necessary to create conditions such that the air pressure below the vocal folds is adequate to make them vibrate as the air releases. Unfortunately, most singers do this by tightening up their throats and then pushing out the air against the resistance they just created. This is an effortful process that can lead to damage and will never yield completely free, beautiful singing. The correct way for singers to manage their breath and optimize subglottal breath pressure is to keep the costal muscles of inspiration engaged while allowing the breath to release fully. There is a more detailed description of this process in this post: http://www.claudiafriedlander.com/the-liberated-voice/2013/06/build-stamina.html

Of course the human breathing system is not like a can. I'm just using the can of compressed air to demonstrate how it is possible for there to be a difference in air pressure inside vs. outside a container and how this difference can make the release of the air more powerful. It is usually very difficult for singers to understand and master this very important technique of breath management. It's very hard for them to understand how it could be possible to produce a full sound without tightening and pushing. The analogy of the can is usually helpful for them to start getting some concept of how this works.

I am not sure why you decided to comment on this post, as it seems to me that you are not yourself involved in singing or vocal technique. You are a yoga teacher who offers workshops in anatomy. As such, you hopefully know a great deal about the anatomy and physiology of breathing but likely have no experiential knowledge of how this is directly applied for classical singing.

I am also surprised by the insulting tone of your comment. As a yoga teacher, I imagine that mindfulness and detached awareness are among the things you encourage in your students. So my expectation is that were you to come across a post that you felt to be incorrect or misleading, you would simply seek to provide better information and the overall tone would be one of equanimity and good will.

I constantly seek to deepen my understanding of human anatomy. Yoga teachers like Nicole Newman http://www.claudiafriedlander.com/the-liberated-voice/2013/07/nicole-newman.html and Elissa Weinzimmer http://elissaweinzimmer.com/home/ are high on my list of valued colleagues and sources of information.

It's my mission to demystify anatomy to singers, who unfortunately often do not receive instruction in how their instruments actually function. So if I get something wrong I'm eager to be enlightened.

You, however, completely misconstrued the point of this post and used it as an excuse to hurl some vitriol in my direction.

Coasish .

Thank you so much for these series! I have just recently found your site and it is so inspiring! One question, do you think it is a good idea to do push ups for better breath support? I am looking all over the place for some instructions as to which sport exercises to do to improve my breath management.
Thank you so much!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo
  • Questions about vocal technique, fitness or career development? Submit them here.

  • Should be Empty: