This week, I have been focussing my voice practice time to a certain piece that contains many difficult runs. These long strings of notes are not only difficult to master in terms of pitch, but they are also very long and require lots of breath control. It is important for every single note to be clearly heard but at the same time flow smoothly to the next note. A common technique to tackle this is to start out going through slowly and then quicken the pace slightly each time until it reaches the correct tempo. This has definitely helped, but there are many other factors in the way. When the piano accompaniment is added into the mix, it can cause a distraction and makes it harder to stay in time. Also, breath becomes much more of an issue when the whole piece is done at once instead of isolating difficult sections and having the luxury of a full relaxed breath.
Last week, my voice teacher gave me an exercise that has proven to be very helpful and does not even involve actually singing. It works on breath. She had me take a deep breath in and then exhale on the sound “sssss” and timed how long I could hold it out. At first I got to thirty-one seconds. It is easy to let out a lot of air at once but takes practice to be able to release only the tiny amount needed for that quiet sound. I practiced all week and was able to increase my time to fifty-two seconds. My goal is a minute so hopefully I can get up to those last eight seconds without too much more difficulty. It was interesting to me that my most helpful exercise this week did not even involve me singing and I think that breath control can be useful in many aspects of life. Practicing this breathing technique requires concentration but also allows for an element of relaxation. I plan to continue working on this and hopefully my runs will become easier to master.