It’s Getting Harder and Harder to Breathe – By Jake Tolley

December 14, 2012 by Dan Walsh

MBLV17 Seminar Preview:  SPEAK UP!

Jake Tolley offers a quick overview of the mechanics of the voice and how the voice works in his seminar, “SPEAK UP!” He’ll demonstrate some simple warmups to use before speaking, low-impact speaking techniques, and other vocal maintenance methods in this presentation. Jake will also discuss troubleshooting techniques and prevention of common vocal ailments. Jake is co-owner of Fuze Entertainment in Cleveland, Ohio. He has over ten years of classical voice training, focusing specifically on vocal quality and endurance.



If you’re like most Americans, you watch, or are at least familiar with, the singing competition The Voice (which, by the way, featured MBLV performer Cupid this season). It occurred to me while watching this show that most people associate the “voice” with just one aspect of their own voice, the singing portion, completely ignoring the part that they use the most, their ability to speak. As entertainers, MCs, salespeople and businesspeople, we rely on our ability to speak, to speak for long periods, and to speak well.

The first step to assuring the longevity and quality of your voice involves a skill that many people take for granted, so much so that they, without even thinking about it, are constantly doing it wrong. Yes, as you are reading this article, you are likely breathing incorrectly. You may be thinking to yourself, “What?! How can I be breathing wrong, I’ve been doing it since I was born!”

While the body was designed to breathe a certain way, there are still ways to breathe that are effective but not fully proficient. There is a simple way to check to see if you’re breathing properly. First, stand up and place one hand on your chest, as if you are saying the pledge of allegiance, place your other hand on your stomach just above your belly button. As you breathe in you should feel one hand rise further than the other. Now common sense says that the hand that should move further is the one on your chest, as your lungs are filling with air. That presumption is, however, incorrect. What causes our lungs to fill with air isn’t the expansion of your lungs but rather a vacuum created just beneath your lungs. A thin layer of muscle located between your lungs and your stomach, called the diaphragm, creates that vacuum. As the diaphragm expands, outward and downward, it creates an empty space in your chest cavity. Now if you paid attention in high school science, you’ll know that vacuums must be filled with something. In this case, your lungs draw air in from your open mouth to fill that space. So in reality, the action of breathing does not come from pushing your lungs out and open, but rather, pushing your diaphragm down and out, which should result in your stomach pushing out farther than your chest.

So, as your head is reeling from this new bit of information, let’s do some more fine-tuning to your respiratory abilities. The idea behind breathing is to get as much air in as reasonably possible. As we established above, our diaphragm is capable of creating much more space in our chest cavities for our lungs to fill than the muscles in the chest itself. One problem, which is unfortunately all too prevalent in the world of DJs, is bad posture. “What does the way I hold myself have to do with breathing?” you may ask. Well more than you may think.

Remember how we talked about breathing requiring extra space in your chest cavity? Well, if you slouch down, even just a little bit, it crunches down on your lungs, in essence pinning them down and preventing them from expanding outwards to their fullest potential. Remember, good posture is not standing as stiff and upright as a British soldier (that can actually be just as detrimental as slouching) but, rather standing up naturally, and bringing your shoulders back so they are roughly in line with your hips.

So, lets try that first exercise again, hands on your chest and stomach. Open your mouth and push your stomach outward, you should feel your lungs fill up significantly more than before, allowing you to speak better, longer, and with more control.

Dan Walsh Dan Walsh (110 Posts)

Filed Under: 2012, Mobile DJ Performance Tips