Sight reading basics week 2! Tap a steady beat. That's your quarter note (remember it gets one beat). A half note looks similar to a quarter note--it's just not filled in. It gets two taps or two beats. So whenever you see a half note in your sheet music, make sure to sing for two counts before going on.
In the words of the great Julie Andrews, “ Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” Sight singing can be overwhelming, but let’s break it down. Rhythm tells you how long to hold a note. This is a quarter note and it gets one count. Tap a steady beat with your foot. Each quarter note gets one tap.
“The true man breathes from his feet up, while ordinary people just breathe from the throat.” - Chuang Tzu
Now that you have the hang of belly breathing, let’s take it to the next step. Your lungs not only attach to your diaphragm, but also to your ribs. Bring your hands to your rib cage. As you inhale, open your ribs out toward your hands. Hiss out like a snake on your exhale and keep your ribs open. Those muscles you feel holding your ribs out? Those are your intercostals.
Why work to expand your belly and your ribs when you breathe? You’ll start to access all of the lobes of your lungs, not just the top portion. Plus, think about how strong all of those muscles in your belly and ribs are... you want them controlling your exhale, not your throat.
The diaphragm lowers on the inhale, but we have to give it some space. Releasing the abdominal wall is counter cultural, but it allows the other organs to move out of the way of the diaphragm. Invite a deeper breath by deliberately letting your belly soften outward on the inhale. Pro tip, wear stretchy pants and remember that your body is a precious instrument.
The lift of your soft palate creates a vaulted ceiling in the cathedral that is your body. It mirrors the other arches throughout your body like the arch of your diaphragm and the arch of your foot. Build the dome of your cathedral by inhaling the subtle beginning of a yawn.
There's a lot to be learned from the story of Hanuman. He didn't know he was part god until, in a moment of desperation, he attempted to leap across the ocean in a full split to rescue his friend. Sometimes we have to come up against an edge or an obstacle to realize our potential. Are you struggling up against something right now or trying to move beyond what feels like an insurmountable barrier? Keep at it. Something beautiful is about to be unleashed.
What is your fullest potential? The Hindu God, Hanuman, is often depicted in a full splits, leaping across the ocean to rescue his dear friend from captivity. But it wasn't until he leapt that he realized he could fly. The funny thing is, he always had this power--he just didn't know it. You are already capable of more than you know. You just have to try.
I began my career as a musician working in churches. During that time I've thought a lot about what music is appropriate for the church and what music is not appropriate. Ultimately it comes down to the question "what makes music sacred?" In honor of National Bible week (beginning today) I wrote an article for the Oxford University Press music blog. To read the article, click here http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/what-makes-music-sacred/