The Air Column: Your "Tube" Includes The Tongue

Before you read this blog entry, check in with yourself and consider what you think of as being your air column.  Where it is? How long do you think it is? Where do the top and bottom end? How/where does the air flow through it?

First, let’s focus on the top end of the tube.

I’ve found that many students think the upper end of their “tube” or “column” is at the level of the bottom of the mouth, base of the tongue, or at the vocal folds. 

The top end of the column through which your air flows extends up into your head, behind your tongue, into your soft palate and the arch formed by the bones of your skull, behind the hard palate.  Notice the top of this arch is above where your skull balances on your spine. The top of this vault is just below the center of gravity of the head and behind part of your eye socket.

This means the air passes through your vocal fold, larynx, in the back of and behind the oral cavity on it’s way to the top of the column.  When the back of the tongue is free (and not pulling down) it helps form the front of the tube, directing the air up in to soft palate toward the vault.  

To experience the full height of your air column, allow your tongue to be in it’s natural position, (as in Alexander’s “whispered ah”) with the rounded tip of your tongue gently contacting the back of your lower teeth, and the back top corner of your tongue wide and high touching the soft palate along with the sides or back of the back upper molars.

This “oral seal” as it is called, divides your nasopharynx from your mouth creating a column of air back by your spine.  You are now breathing in and out through your nose.

The column through which your air flows extends up behind the back of your tongue with the tongue in the oral seal and toward the top of your head.

While exhaling, direct your air up toward the top of your head.  It will automatically go our your nose.

While inhaling, allow the air to come in to the top concha of your nose. This is way up nearly between your eyes.

(image used by permission; David Gorman, pg. 19.)

As you breath make sure there is no sucking, pushing or pulling the air in or out.  Let yourself find the natural suspension as you move from exhale to inhale and then inhale to exhale. Leave your tongue alone.

Please Note:

There should be no sound/noise on the inhale breathe.  If you are making sound you are constricting your throat somewhere.

The oral seal may be higher than you are used to if you habitually press our tongue down.

When you speak and sing well, this air gets caught up behind the back of the tongue, vibrates the skull and creates resonance.

Walter Carrington writes about the oral seal in his chapter on breathing on page 69 of  “Thinking Aloud.”  At the end of his explaination he says: “So there's really a nice lot to work on.” This is the beginning of what I understand the “nice lot” to be.