Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Norman Carey

Committee Members

Claudia Friedlander

David Rindskopf

L. Poundie Burstein

Subject Categories

Music Education | Music Pedagogy | Music Performance


breath management, support, subglottal pressure, sound pressure level, steady airflow, vocal pedagogy


This empirical study investigated the possibility of finding an alternative to a conventional directive in vocal pedagogy. There is a debate among voice pedagogues and voice scientists with regard to how to teach breath management, particularly about the concept of support. W. Stephen Smith has strongly objected to the use of the term “support.” He suggests that the word promotes the use of increased air pressure. The purpose of the present investigation was to test that hypothesis by examining differences in a variety of physiological parameters, comparing a conventional singing instruction that uses the word “support” with an alternative instruction that integrates Smith’s concept, constant flow of air.

The parameters (subglottal pressure, sound pressure level, and airflow rate) were obtained by using the KayPENTAX Phonatory Aerodynamic System. Three instructions were given in randomized order to 49 participants: (A) Sing the way you usually sing (baseline); (B) Allow your breath to flow steadily with the clear [ɑ] vowels; and (C) Keep the tone well supported with the clear [ɑ] vowels. The singing material consisted of seven intonations of the syllable [pɑ] to the tune of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” The participants filled out a questionnaire inquiring as to how they applied instructions (B) and (C) to their singing.

The results revealed significant differences in both subglottal pressure (p = 0.002) and sound pressure level (p = 0.035) between instructions (B) and (C) in the singing task: subglottal pressure and sound pressure level showed a lower mean for instruction (B) than for instruction (C). The statistical results and the participants’ written responses related to instruction (B) (e.g., “legato,” “free,” “naturally,” “easier”) suggest that the use of instruction (B) can facilitate students’ efficient singing without additional strain.