Breath-damming, what is it? Richard Miller in his book “National Schools of Singing,” describes breath damming as such, “Breath damming is a technique of breath retention through marked sub-glottal muscular pressures. The breath flow is stemmed by the glottis.” This type of breathing is faulty without the antagonism of the intercostal muscles. Abdominal breathing on its own causes a collapsed chest, which needs to be in a noble position for a balanced breath in singing. Abdominal breathing is most associated with the German school of singing, called Staumethode. In abdominal breathing, the chest cannot help but be low and disconnected from the muscles of the ribs, namely intercostals. Why is this important? If the singer is relying on the abdominal muscles to squeeze out the breath, the trap has fallen and sub-glottal pressure to the throat ensues. We have muscles in the larynx that if ignored, throws off the balance of muscle antagonism needed for singing.
How do we recognize abdominal technique in action? The first sign is a low chest and low position of the abdominal muscles. Attention to what one of the most celebrated voice teachers, Sbriglia, states about this technique, “now it is different, (meaning instruction of singing), everybody is in a hurry. The new pushing method of singing with the back of the neck, sunk in chest, and muscularly pushed out diaphragm, is a quick way to get results in singing, and only a little less of a quick way to ruin the voice.”
Voice teachers have the responsibility to educate themselves on a continual basis in order to give their students the best education in vocal technique possible. Remember when looking for a voice teacher; make sure that they are always looking for ways not only to improve you the student, but in addition, themselves. Who can claim that they have arrived and have nothing further to learn?
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