Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Why Inhaling Through Nose AND Mouth is Best for the Voice

For the voice, three inhale holes are better than one or two!
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Among the controversies out there concerning vocal technique is this question:
Should you breath in through your nose or mouth when you sing? 
From my experience as singer, speaker and vocal coach my answer is... 
Both! 
Why? Let's do a three-part experiment:

1.  Just inhale through your nose. 
Flare your nose and try to suck a big breath in. Where did the breath seem to go? I bet your upper front chest expanded, and your shoulders probably lifted. Most of the lobes of your lungs are lower and more the back part of your torso. And lifting your shoulders are going to tighten the bottom of your ribcage. None of this is good for your voice.

2. Inhale from your mouth. 
Open wide and breathe in. Where did the breath seem to go? It was high again, wasn't it? How drying did it feel to your throat? How tight did your neck get?

3. Now inhale through both nose and mouth. 
You don't need to open your mouth wide... open your lips for a little sip, at the same time flaring your nostrals. Don't suck air like a Hoover... let it fall in. How much faster and deeper did you breathe? 

OK, here's why I find inhaling through nose and mouth to be best:

  • It allows breath to fall the fastest.

It does this by encouraging expansion in the low torso, shifting body contents downwards to make room for the flattening diaphragm to lower the lungs and create a partial vacuum. This action draws air in instantly. You get a much better quality breath.

  • It encourages a low power center for the voice. 

Singers and speakers tend to power the voice from where the breath seems to be taken in. For optimal balanced breath support/control, it should feel like you're powering the voice from the pelvic floor. Opening nose and mouth allows air to fall in low, not be sucked in high.

  • It is the least dehydrating way to move air through the throat.

You'll notice when you inhale from nose and mouth, you tend to do so silently. It doesn't feel like you moved the sahara desert through your throat, drying it out and causing irritation that could lead to a voice-sabotaging tickle or cough.

  • It expands the whole throat channel (nasal, oral and laryngeal pharynx).

This pre-opens the throat for conducting laryngeal vibration to resonators before you say or sing a word. 

So why do so many people say you should breathe through the nose?

Many athletic coaches recommend nose breathing for athletic activities, for many good reasons. However, for the voice, it's not the best strategy. When I began teaching one of the books I read was Jeffrey Allen's book 'Secrets of Singing'. He came to the same conclusion, while also mentioning it was controversial. In my teaching experience, every time someone comes in singing while nose breathing, they have all kinds of vocal issues including lack of breath control, tight throat and range limitations. Just opening all three holes to let air in (both nostrals and the mouth) creates instant vocal improvement. 

Silent, Deep and Wide

I find that a lower torso sensation of 'Silent, Deep and Wide' will create the best quality inhale for the voice. Opening nose and mouth creates this sensation. Practicing it on purpose will create muscle memory so it becomes your modus operande for singing and speaking.

Did you try it? What do you think?

For more practical vocal training like this, check out my course "Power, Path and Performance".

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