Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
Thomas J. Hixon held a PhD in speech pathology and audiology from the University of Iowa and did postdoctoral work at Harvard in respiratory physiology and biomechanics. He wrote well over 100 articles and textbooks, and taught workshops for singers throughout the world. In his book Respiratory Function in Singing (a MUST read) he not only describes the intricacies of respiration but also offers several series of exercises designed to explore respiration for singing. Today I want to highlight his exercise regimen for exploring respiratory shape. Hixon says that the shape of the respiratory apparatus involves the combined positioning of the rib cage and abdominal wall. Shape has numerous influences on vocal production that are discussed in-depth in the book. The exercises below specifically target abdominal movement. While performing the exercises, ask the student to pay careful attention to what she experiences and encourage her to put it in her own words. First Hixon has the student explore the movement by itself.
Now it is time to add phonation. These exercises should begin with a silent breath and vocalization should be normal amplitude, on a comfortable pitch, with default vocal quality.
While going through these exercises, have the student pay attention to how their voice changes. What does she feel? What does she hear? Does the larynx move? Does vowel shape change? Does the tone quality change? Does one exercise work better than another? After discussing the exercise, try applying these variations of abdominal wall movement to more complex exercises or repertoire. To read the complete description of this exercise as well as the others Hixon describes, see chapter 10 of his book.
Do you use these exercises or other variations in your teaching? If you do, please comment below. If you are not already following the blog, please sign-up on the bottom right hand side of this page. As always, thanks for reading! ~ Matt