Episode 35 – Brilliant Breathing Techniques with Robin de Haas

Steve’s housemate, Lee Zebedee, opens the show with his fantastic trumpet playing…. member of The Imaginations and epic beard grower, we’re ‘thrilled’ to have him join us on the show again. It leads beautifully into todays featured artist, Keith Washo. We met him at VocalizeU Winter Retreat this January, check out his country style ballads. Music for the soul.

For You by Keith Daniel Washo, Music Video

Welcome to Robin De Haas

Today we are joined by Robin De Haas and he is a force in the world of breathing techniques. He is a leading expert worldwide within the topic of breathing in speech and singing. He shares some techniques and skills Robin de Haas - Breathing Coordinationthat you will be able to take forward to assist in your singing technique. A vocal coach from Switzerland, in recent years he has specialised in breathing coordination. We were lucky to attend a workshop with one of Robins’ associates to hear about the technique that was originally developed as a relief for emphysema.

Breathing may have gone by the way side in the early days of our training but over the years, it’s become apparent of how necessary it has become. Robin trained classically and found the more he worked this way, the more he started to struggle and found he needed to work on breath support. He was trying to breathe low and expand the ribs, but something clearly wasn’t working.

He then booked in a lesson with internationally recognised anatomy professor and coach Lynn Martin. With a medicinal background in her approach to singing, she assessed his rib cage and could see that his ribs were out of alignment which was affecting his breathing considerably. With her help and guidance he found he was no longer straining and struggling with breath. There was resonance and ease like never before, and here began his passion for breathing techniques.

High Residual Volume – sorry, what?

Common approaches seem to be regarding high residual volume. Robin explains we hold too much breath (which is air, just to be clear) inside and tend to inhale more than we exhale. This creates a high pressure in the lungs, and if there is too much it can cause tiredness and irritation on the vocal folds. The folds then start losing their ability to vibrate and produce sound correctly and close too hard, causing damage.

An effective way to help reduce this excess lung pressure is to breath out fully, and try to get rid of the held air (or in technical speak, the high residual volume); check you don’t tighten your abdominal wall as you do it. There should be no noise on the inhale. The sensations are not to tighten or squeeze out the belly. The abdominals are quite high up the rib cage so if you tighten them, they tighten around the lungs, which is ineffective. It may feel like more work to do this, but it is less work for your voice in the long run.

Try this helpful effective breathing exercise:

Imagine a long, exhaling breath onto cold glass when you want to draw a picture with your finger. Now do the same, but ensure the breath exhalation is silent, slow and steady. Over this gentle exhale, mouth silently numbers from 1 to 10, over and over again, until no more breath remains. This assists in ridding the lungs of residual air pressure. A singer feels more uncomfortable through the transition so it is instinctive to push more air to ‘help’. Practice the silent numbers and keep the steady flow of breath. Pushing air delays singers to find general balance, and fights against balance in the vocal cords and breathing system. It’s also easier to change vowel and achieve good diction when the air is steady and calm.

Very often , the ‘crack’ is because the singers has created too much air pressure from the lungs and have released their tension in the vocal cord muscle.

Robin clears up some breathing misconceptions

“Stick out your stomach” or “breath into your back” – Correct breathing is a shared movement throughout the whole torso, back, abdominal area and rib cage… everything has to move a bit. If you were just to release the stomach, too much release in the abdominal wall results in lack of support. Breathing is postural and needs support. It’s the same for breathing in the back only, as you will start having restrictions of movement in the chest. There are certainly set systems in place for teaching this kind of breathing technique, but there are so many muscles that there cannot be one stick your belly out answer to everything. Every singer is different and needs balancing in a bespoke way.

“How should my ribs move when I’m singing?” – Each singing teacher should know which part of a singers ribs move when breathing correctly. When you are exhaling your diaphragm ascends, and it glides against the rib cage forming a dome. A double glide action happens because the rib cage also descends. This is the natural way that the rib cage should move.

That’s it!

These are very new approaches to a lot of people but we’ve had great personal experiences with Robins’ techniques and we highly recommend finding out more about him, and ‘Breathing Coordination’ itself. You can find out more about Robin on his website.

You can find out more about the technique at www.breathingcoordination.chGo to ‘Practitioners’ where you’ll find a world map and can find the closest practitioner to you.

His book ‘La Voie de la Voix’  is currently being translated from French to English and it’s available now on Amazon.

People do fly over to visit him in Switzerland. When he has touring artists, he can cancel days of teaching and help if need be. He is available for people that may just want to have a regular consultation, in which case you may have to wait a little. He’s currently booking for June 2017!

He’s found himself working with the United Nations and those who speak publicly. He’s hired by doctors to help with breathing ailments too. Good breathing is helping EVERYONE.

He’s doing 3 shows on TV in Switzerland at the end of this year, so his work is obviously ‘resonating’ with a lot of people. We’re glad to have been a part of the movement.

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