Instructions for Developing a Correct Method of Breathing for Singers and Speakers
These instructions enable everyone to obtain a perfect method of breathing, based on an exact scientific foundation. By following them, the breathing apparatus can be trained and perfected. Weakness, such as short breath, gasping, tenseness of the abdomen, heart palpitations, fainting spells, nervousness, lung troubles, and, according to the testimony of prominent physicians, even some forms of tumors can be avoided.
All previous methods of breathing has been based more or less on opinions and suppositions. They have lacked the exact scientific foundation, which alone can be an assured guide to a successful system of study. Only a correct analysis of the parts of the body, its structure, and of the muscles which adjust and move the parts, can lead one to a natural, easy, and free system of breathing. This is accomplished through the study of these instructions alone.
Most everyone suffers to a greater or less degree from the abuse and misuse of the breathing organs, especially the singer the singer and public speaker. To them correct breathing is of the utmost value. Those who have studied “The Perfect Voice” system can now add to it a perfect system of breathing, which will give them greater freedom, greater volume of tone, and most assuredly, better health and prolonged life.
General Review of the Latest Discoveries Regarding Breath. The Importance Of Breath-Movement
The expansion and contraction of the lungs has been compared with the action of bellows. It s accomplished through the rhythmical contraction of striped, voluntary muscles, but with the support of an additional weight, similarly as it is done with bellows used in pipe organs, where extra weights have been provided to more quickly expel the air within the bellows. In the human being this additional support is provided for by the natural elasticity of the lungs firstly, and secondly by the bones and ribs which surround the lungs. This bony structure surrounding the lungs is called the thorax or chest.
Because both the lungs and the chest surrounding them are naturally elastic, an expansion of the lungs and consequent inrush of air is made possible. This expansion of the lungs is possible by an active voluntary effort, followed by a passive involuntary contraction merely through the elasticity of the chest. But a passive involuntary inspiration followed by an active voluntary expiration is also possible.
In the activities which demand both an enlarged breath and greater rapidity of breathing, such as is required for singing and for public speaking, both the inspiration and expiration must be active and voluntary, hence consciously trained and acquired.
The anatomical mechanism of the thorax is such that the elasticity of its parts are called into action by active expansion and contraction. In the upright position of a man, the weight of the thorax opposes the expansion, but favors the contraction. The twelve pairs of ribs with the twelve vertebraes to which they are attached (the first pair, however, is not free), and which are through the medium of cartilages combined with the breast bone, are in such a position that they incline downward and forward, hence the expansion of these ribs is only possible through the contracting muscles, and when this contraction ceases, then the weight of the ribs will cause a passive narrowing or collapse of the thorax.
The raising and lowering of the ribs is similar to the movement of spokes around the axle. With the exception of the lowest two ribs, all are connected with the breast bone directly or indirectly by means of cartilaginous continuations.
These are bent in such a way that in raising the ribs they are at the same time projecting forward also. It is owing to the elasticity of these cartilage continuations of the bony ribs that an active expansion of the thorax by its connecting muscles if followed by a passive contraction and consequent narrowing, or that a passive expansion can be followed by an active contraction. But the chest cavity is enclosed at its lower extremity by another elastic element, the diaphragm. It forms a muscular wall between the chest and the abdomen. On expanding the thorax, this diaphragm is lowered and thereby adds largely to the space needed for inspiration.
Within this enclosed space of the thorax and diaphragm are placed the two lungs, lying close against the walls and following passively their movements of expansion or contraction.
Normally, the most important part of active inspiration is the diaphragm. At every inspiration each one of the muscular fibers of the diaphragm is contracted. Beside the diaphragm there are a number of other muscles which raise and expand the thorax.
The basis of all active expiration, such as is used in singing, speaking, coughing, etc., is formed by the abdominal muscles. These muscles pull upon the ribs downward and thereby narrow or contract the space of the thorax, and since they also press inward upon the abdomen, they push indirectly against the diaphragm, so that it will strongly incline upward and add in the narrowing of the thorax and consequent expelling of the breath.
SINGING AND SPEAKING
For public singing and speaking an additional 100 to 150 cubic inches of breath has to be provided for, in less time than a second, unless there is a longer rest between the phrases. The aim must be to obtain the maximum result with the minimum of exertion. The process of inspiration should be instantaneous, but the process of expiration on the contrary,, should be spread over considerable time, as needed for longer and shorter phrases. It is therefore of the utmost importance to know how to inhale with the utmost ease and with the least possible loss of time.
So that the student may understand the anatomical reason for the instructions which are to follow, and as a proof that such instruction exactly covers the physiological tendency of the different parts of the organs, a short description of the chest, diaphragm, lungs, abdomen, and the muscles which govern these parts, will be given.
The object of inspiration is to create a larger space for the expansion of the lungs. The object of expiration is to contract this space to the normal size. The lungs are allowed a greater space to expand in, only by those muscles which can expand the ribs. This expansion of the ribs takes place mainly through the contraction of the muscles of the back.
The many different parts of the skeleton of the body are connected with each other by tendons and muscles. The muscles surround the bones and joints and form what we term the flesh of the body. The muscles consist of a contractile substance. The contraction is caused by the will which acts through the nerves which supply the muscles. When a muscle contracts, it becomes shorter and thicker. When the contraction ceases, the muscle resumes its normal shape. As a muscle grows out of one bone and is fastened to another, it will thereby move the bones toward each other. The muscles of the skeleton belong to what is termed “striped” muscles. They may act singly or in groups, move only one part or several at the same instant. The muscles of the skeleton are divided into three principal groups, those of the body, the head and the extremities. The muscles of the body again are divided into four groups, the back, the chest, the abdomen and the throat.
MUSCLES DEPEND UPON ONE ANOTHER
The illustration shown in Fig. 148 deserves a careful inspection. Starting from the hip bone (7), muscles are seen to ascent into the shoulder blades and the ribs.
Others descend from the head into the shoulders and from there downward to the chest, ribs and to the hips. What has already been described so carefully in the previous lesson, that is, the absolute dependence of one set of muscles upon another set, holds good for the breathing apparatus as well. As in the “Perfect Voice” so also in “Perfect Breath.” It is remarkable that there is so little displacement of the larger parts, the chest, back, and abdomen. These parts are balanced between muscles which pull upon both ways, up and down, or forward and backward, so that they are not strained away from other parts or crowded against them.
CORRECT BREATHING EFFORTS DO NO IMPLY STRONG SENSATIONS
The bodily signs of correct breathing efforts, as will be shown later on, can be detected by the eye or felt by the hand; but these efforts do not excite any noticeable sensations, because in the natural, correct efforts, the different sets of muscles work in harmony with each other. Any effort which excites strong sensation, or causes a strain, is false, because then some set of muscles are opposed by another set, hence there is a tug of war, which we feel as a strain. Although strong efforts are being made, yet they will not be felt as such if the muscles act automatically, that is, if they are not interfered with by other opposing muscles.
In order that the lungs may expand and take in a larger quantity of air, it is necessary that additional space must be provided for the lungs’ expansion. This can only be done by the muscles which expand the ribs. The spine in the back and the breast bone in front are two fixed points; firm bones to which the ribs are attached, and between these two the ribs rotate or pivot on their joints of attachment. The ribs are attached to the vertebraes of the spin by these joints and controlled by muscles which grow from the vertebraes to the ribs, so that when a muscle contracts, it must necessarily move the rib to which it is attached, since, as was mentioned, the vertebrae being a joint of the spine, remains in a fixed, firm position. The attachment to the breast bone in front is formed by a cartilage continuation of the rib to the breast bone. This cartilage forms an angle which straightens when a rib is bring moved by its muscles, so that the rib moves not only sideways but also a little upward.
The main point to be remembered is the fact that only the ribs can be moved, and not as is sometimes taught, the whole chest. It is true that by moving the shoulder blades upward, a feeling of chest lifting is suggested. However, the chest is NOT thereby raised. One might just as well try to life oneself by the shoe straps as try to raise the true chest. All such endeavors cause a useless strain, and defeat the object for which we seek.
If the extreme ends of the bird’s wing were firmly attached to an opposite point of the joint from which the wings are grown, the bird could flap its wings outward and upward. Just such a movement is made by the ribs, and no other is naturally possible.
The shoulder blades and collar bone are connected both with the head and the thorax or chest by muscles which can interfere with a movement of the ribs. If the shoulder blades are raised, the expansion of the ribs will be lessened and made difficult; if they remain raised during singing, the expiration of breath will be seriously interfered with or almost impossible. Therefore, the shoulder blades must remain in their natural position of rest.
The three principal muscles which hold the should blades in a firm position are:
1. The Trapezius. It is fastened all along the backbone or spine, from the lowest rib of the back of the head, thus including the entire neck.
2. The Rhomboideus, major and minor. They extend from the lower vertebra of the neck and the four or five upper joints of the back to the shoulder blades.
3. The Levator scapula. To the highest joints of the neck and to the shoulder blades below.
All of these muscles assist in the act of inspiration, as well as the following muscles which extend from the collar bone and shoulder blades to the ribs:
The most powerful of the muscles which extend from the collar bone and shoulder blades to the upper ribs is (4) the serratus magnus. From the lower edge of the shoulder blades, this muscle stretches forward and downward into the ribs to about the line of the vest pockets. On its way from the shoulder blades to the ribs, it splits into strips or serrations (hence its name). When the shoulder blades are held fixed in their natural position, then the serratus magnus muscle can pull powerfully upon the ribs and cause them to move strongly outward and upward.
5. The pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor also extend from the collar bone and shoulder blades into some of the ribs, and can thereby aid in the expansion of the thorax.
6. The lattissimus dorsi is a large muscular band, fastened below to the hip bone and the vertebraes of the spine. It is attached to the lower ribs and extends upward to terminate into a tendon which is fastened to the inner side of the arm. The parts of this muscle which are attached to the lower ribs draw those ribs outward and upward which are not reached by the serratus magnus. To favor this action, the shoulder blades and the collar bone must also remain fixed.
From each rib extend muscles to the one above and below – these are called the intercostal or “between-rib” muscles.
There are two sets, one placed on the outside, the external intercostal; the other one the inside, the internal intercostal. Together they line the whole open space between the ribs and form a perfectly tight inclosure or wall. These muscles draw the ribs nearer together. They act both as inspiratory and, in connection with the abdominal muscles, as expiratory muscles.
Only those muscles which are more directly inspiratory have been given. The diaphragm, which is one of the most important breathing muscles, will be treated in another part of these lessons, since for public singing or speaking, its real office is, according to the most recent researches, more expiratory than inspiratory.
It is true that the descending of the dome of the diaphragm somewhat enlarges the cavity of the chest and permits the lungs to spread downward, thereby assisting the inspiration. But the enlargement of the chest’s circumference by the outward spreading ribs is so much larger that the conclusion is arrived at that the inhaling of breath is principally due to the rib movements.
Technical as this first part of the explanations may seem to be to the student, yet it is necessary to a better understanding of the exercises which will follow. The student is requested to study this part again and again.