In this blog post, I am giving you five good reasons why you should develop good breathing technique for singing.
We take our first breath at birth and since that moment, we breathe without paying too much attention to it.
Day in and day out.
We breathe when we sleep, we breathe when we are awake, and we breathe when we speak.
So why on earth do we need to “learn to breathe for singing”?
Some people will even try to convince you that a singer does not need to learn correct breathing for singing. They say, “It will come naturally.”
But don’t be fooled. It will not come naturally.
Every singer should devote some time to learning about breathing for singing.
First, a singer needs to have some knowledge about the anatomy and physiology of breathing.
No worries – a singer does not need to know all the anatomical terms or physiological concepts. However, every singer should have a good understanding of what is really going on in the body while singing.
Second, proper breathing skills for singing should be developed.
This is a long term goal that requires regular practice. Every singing practice should include voice training exercises and breathing exercises for developing breath control for singing.
Third, good breathing technique should be applied to a repertoire of songs.
This step also requires regular practice.
But why does a singer need to learn all this?
Over our lifespan, we acquire bad habits that interfere with the natural process of breathing and producing sound. Becoming aware of these functions in our body and developing new habits will diminish undesirable habits.
In order to activate the vibration of the vocal folds, singers need a controlled air stream.
The emphasis is on CONTROLLED.
Sufficient airflow gives energy to the vocal cords to produce sound. A singer needs to develop full control of his or her breath.
Breathing for singing is very different from breathing during relaxation or speaking.
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How is Breathing for Singing Different from “Normal” Breathing?
Singing requires deeper breathing as well as more efficient and coordinated breathing than breathing for speech or during relaxation.
Watch my video, in which I talk about 5 differences between breathing for singing and breathing at rest:
Link to the video: https://youtu.be/LHHDAit9oPo
1. Breathing for singing is deeper than breathing at rest.
During breathing at rest, the diaphragm moves only about 1.5 cm (half an inch).
During singing, the diaphragm moves about 7 to 8 cm (2-3 inches). So the movement of the diaphragm is deeper.
The goal of the singer is to coordinate muscle activity to allow the diaphragm to descend lower than during normal breathing.
2. Breathing for singing requires more muscle activity than breathing for speech.
During speech and relaxation, very little muscle activity is required for breathing. The diaphragm contracts downward during inhalation whether you sleep, speak or sing (as mentioned in previous point, the difference is in the degree of contraction).
During singing, other muscles become active too.
The rib muscles (external intercostal muscles) contract more and help lift and expand the ribcage during singing.
The back muscles are also involved in expanding the ribcage during inhalation, all of which results in the expansion of the lungs and trunk in all directions.
I like to call this coordinated muscle action “The 360 Ring of Breath” (to read more about it, click here).
Exhalation is mostly a passive phase at rest but during singing it needs to be supported by active engagement of belly (abdominal) muscles and the support of the whole body.
During exhalation, the abdominal muscles are involved in controlling the pressure in the abdomen.
Moreover, the pelvic floor is also involved in assissting the diaphragm to ascend slowly.
The inner organs are pushed in and up slowly, which in turn assists the diaphragm upward movement back to its relaxed position. By controlling the exhalation muscles, the singer sends the right amount of air through the vocal cords.
The goal of the singer is to learn to coordinate the action of all the muscles so that he can control the amount of air going through the vocal cords.
3. The exhalation phase during singing is longer than during speaking or rest.
Inhalation and exhalation in normal breathing last about the same length of time. It takes about 5 seconds to breathe in and out.
In singing, exhalation (when singing happens) is much more prolonged. Also, the inhalation phase is quicker compared to the prolonged exhalation phase.
The singer has to resist the urge to breathe out and expel all the air at once. This is achieved by controlling the muscles of exhalation, most importantly by abdominal muscles and muscles of the torso.
The goal of the singer is to learn to engage muscles of exhalation to slow down the air flow through the vocal cords.
4. Breathing for singing requires more conscious control than breathing at rest.
The breathing process is automatic and most of the time controlled at an unconscious level.
During singing, breathing is under more voluntary control. Your body is an instrument with many parts that need to be controlled to create a flawless sound.
The goal of the singer is to learn to coordinate the action of all the parts to produce the most efficient and most resonant sound.
5. Breathing for singing prepares the body for sound production.
The main goal of breathing at rest is to sustain life by providing the body with oxygen.
However, good breathing technique for singing also prepares the singer’s body for sound production.
During inhalation, the singer opens the throat and larynx as well as other resonating cavities. This helps prepare the body for optimal sound production.
The goal of the singer is to learn to prepare his instrument for singing during inhalation.
Here is a summary of the main differences in a picture format:
Embed this infographic on your website. Here is the HTML code:
<a title="Breathing for Singing" href="https://tips.how2improvesinging.com/breathing-for-singing/" target="_blank"><img src="https://tips.how2improvesinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/breathing-for-singing-how-is-it-different.jpg" alt="" border="0" /></a>
So, we’ve covered the differences but there is still the question:
“What are the benefits of good breathing technique for singing?”
Benefits of Good Breathing Technique
When you develop good breathing technique, you also achieve the following:
1. Singing Without Tension
One of the greatest advantages of using proper breathing technique is singing without tension.
If you take shallow breaths while singing, you create tension in the neck, shoulder, chest and face areas, which transfers to the larynx and vocal cords. Ultimately this affects your tone.
On the other hand, low breaths (using proper breathing technique) allow a singer to keep the vocal tract, including the throat, open without any tension. A singer learns to keep his throat open while controlling the airflow with his expiratory muscles (mostly abdominal muscles).
In a singer’s body, there is a constant struggle of two forces – the air that wants to leave the body and the voice that wants to stay in the body (the Italian school of singing calls it La lotta vocale or the vocal struggle).
Proper breath support allows for an open throat.
During breathing, air pressure builds up under the vocal cords but the larynx cannot hold back the pressure (otherwise there would be tension in your vocal cords).
It is the torso that “holds” the breath pressure back and allows the throat to stay open and be free of tension. This holding back by the body represents the breath support that allows for the right amount of air stream to be sent through the vocal cords.
2. Full Control Over the Amount of Air Sent Through the Vocal Cords
Untrained singers very often collapse their chests during singing, which causes the air to escape rapidly from the lungs in an uncontrolled way.
Good breathing technique helps a singer use his muscles of expiration and control how the breath is used during singing.
3. Prepared Vocal Mechanism
Inhaling – breathing in – is not just an act of taking air in; it is a phase that prepares the body for sound production.
This is the phase when your instrument opens up to accept the breath.
This is achieved by lowering the diaphragm and therefore filling up the bottom part of the lungs as well as by expanding the ribcage sideways. This “emptiness” creates good conditions for vibration and resonance.
Other advantages of coordinated breathing and supported sound are:
- Better accuracy and clarity of sound,
- Reliable air supply for sung phrases, short and long,
- Improved sound volume,
- Improved vocal agility,
- Improved air pressure under the vocal cords,
- Tone stability,
- Improved confidence, and more.
Did you know that voice quality is affected by the amount of inhaled air and the air pressure under the vocal cords?
Too little or too much air cause poor vocal quality.
Isn’t this a good enough reason to start working on your breathing technique?
In untrained singers, there is a tendency to squeeze vocal folds together in order to produce a powerful voice instead of increasing air pressure and airflow by engaging the abdominal muscles.
Squeezing vocal folds together can produce a stronger voice but the quality will be poor. Moreover, squeezing puts strain on the vocal mechanism, which in the long run can lead to vocal trauma.
Breathing for Singing Is Like a Garden Hose
Picture this: the vocal mechanism represented by a garden hose.
If you want to water plants in the back row of your garden, you can either squeeze the hose or increase the water flow inside the hose. Squeezing a hose causes a stronger stream of water; however it also damages the hose after many uses. Alternatively, turning the water valve also increases the water flow. This method does not put strain on the hose.
Preserve the hose and learn how to develop coordinated breath support!
Coordinated breathing for singing helps you reduce:
- Flat tones
- Breathy tones
- Strained tones
- Uncontrolled vibrato
- Weak sound
- Uneven sound and much more!
So if you are trying to improve the quality of your sound, re-assess you breathing for singing and see if you can improve your skills in this area.
BONUS: Do You Breathe Correctly for Singing? Download a FREE Breathing Checklist. Discover Your Strengths and Areas for Development. Transform Your Breathing and Sing With Ease and Confidence. Click Here to Download It NOW!
To read more about breathing for singing, go to:
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