How Can I Improve My Ability to Give Long Karvai or Sing a Sustained Note for an Elongated Time?

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Question from Student:
Is there a sure way to increase the sustenance of breath, as even trying for 15-20seconds leads to shortness of breath. It is becoming difficult to sustain a note/swara phrase for even a few seconds. Could you please suggest voice exercises to improve our ability to sing sustained notes?
Answered by Shri Chitravina N Ravikiran
5 to 20 seconds is a good start actually. That means in a normal composition of Adi talam, in one kalai, you’ll be able to sing about three Avartanams at least in a single breath which is not bad at all. But one can always aim for more. So you can try to first work on kArvais in madhya sthayi. Ex: S , , , , , R , , , , , , N , , , , , , S, , , ,., , .So have a stopwatch and sing each note in time yourself.
Typically the nower notes will be easier than the higher notes because more energy is expended . So in between the madhya sthayi shadjam and panchamam itself you’ll have some difference and then tAra sthayi shadjam will be even less. But that’s ok, not a problem at all initially. So if you have a stopwatch, over a period of time say within a week you’ll see improvement because already you will be trying to better yourself. Don’t spend more than 5 mins on this breath control business- because automatically when we sing more, our stamina increases. So breath control will also be better over a period of time.
But the main use of breath control comes in when you can split the lyrics and musical phrasings correctly. So gradually when you are confident of holding notes in one breath, try to see how much you are able to sing dynamically in one breath (Ravikiran sir Demonstrates breath control by singing pallavi of ninnukori varnam in one breath -singing dynamically for about 2 to 2.1/2 avartanas in one breath). Gradually the dynamic singing will also increase- the kalpana swaram, the alapana ,longer phrases and all. So there is no need to worry if you are able to hold 15 -20 seconds at this stage..
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