MUSCLE CONTROL IN GENERAL
Students of voice are often taught to keep all the chest and abdominal muscles entirely relaxed and loose. Whole systems have been founded on this rule, but of course without success. It must be evident to every intelligent person, that no work can be done by relaxed muscles. One could not inhale air, for instance, if the chest expanding muscles remained lax, neither could one exhale, if the muscles which compress the chest, were lax – that is, inactive. The reason an intoxicated person cannot control himself is because he has lost the power over his muscles. They have become slack and therefore are not capable of performing their functions of holding the body upright.
But if a set of relaxed muscles can perform little or no work, it does not necessarily follow that the muscles should be stiff or hard in order to do their work. That condition would be just as incorrect as the other, for neither can stiff muscles perform correctly.
Many singers and speakers, in fact, almost everyone, hold the breathing muscles too tense. This is especially a common fault of women, hence they unconsciously utilize considerably less air than men. So general has this fault become, that it has been accepted as a natural condition of female breathing. Research has proven, however, that aside from a smaller and more graceful form, in women, the breathing apparatus is exactly the same for both sexes and is governed by identical muscles and laws.
Since nether the laxed or the stiff muscles can do their work, another way must exist. This is to keep the muscles “flexible.”
All muscles which are directly or indirectly concerned in breathing are connected with nerves. The will is communicated through the nerves to the muscles and stimulates them to contraction. One must think of the muscles as having many cells which lie one above the other in rows, like grains of powder. A fiber radiating from the central battery of the brain, leads to each of these grains. Through an impulse of the will, one of these grains is exploded. The muscle contracts instantly and remains contracted until a grain is exploded from the negative battery. Then instantly the muscle springs back into its natural position. When the cells are used up, fatigue appears. During the required time of recuperation the tiny bacilli of the blood remove the ashes and build up new cells.
It is by this process that muscles grow stronger. If one tries to force a muscle, it fails to respond. It seems that the positive and negative cells neutralize each other so that no contraction is possible.
THE LESSON THE ABOVE TEACHES
The conclusions which the attentive student cannot fail to draw from the above explanation are that one can only gain control over a muscle by contracting it very quickly but easily, keeping it so for a second or two and then letting it relax, and continuing this process until fatigue appears. With patience and perseverance the necessary muscular control can invariably be attained. Constant practice will then develop any muscle to great strength.
EXPANSION OF THE THORAX OR CHEST
In the first part of the course, it was explained why the chest or thorax had to be expanded. There are two distinct sets of muscles which move the thorax. One of these sets of muscles opens the thorax and widens it, because the muscles which grow from the spine into the ribs, pull the ribs outward and upward. As long as one holds these ribs expanded no breath will escape, because there is then no pressure inward upon the lungs.
The second set of muscles will bring the ribs back to their natural position. When they contract they draw the ribs inward which causes a pressure upon the lungs; thereby the breath is forced out. The first of these movements is “inspiratory,” the second, “expiratory.”
Any movement which occurs outside of these two movements in the diaphragm and abdomen should be automatic and only when the diaphragm and abdomen automatically or involuntarily move with the voluntary expansion and contraction of the ribs, can one be assured of a perfect free and easy breathing.