Breathing is one of the core foundations of singing. The way you breathe and process air in your lungs and vocal cords directly affect the quality of your voice. It is extremely important to observe proper breathing techniques. It is also important to do breathing exercises to improve your singing.
In this article, I will give you some of the best breathing techniques and exercises and explain to you the importance of following proper techniques.
Why Should I Do Breath Support Exercises?
Breath management has been a topic of interest in singing for the past 500 years. Many coaches believe that breathing molds along with your voice as you improve. However, this is not entirely true. If you want your voice to be full and resonant, then learning how to breathe properly is extremely important.
Aside from this, not observing proper breathing can strain your vocal cords. This may also lead to the development of nodes that are a health hazard and could be dangerous to your voice altogether.
Learning the technique and practicing over and over until it becomes almost muscle memory is a surefire way to protect your voice and vocal cords in the long run.
How to Improve Breathing for Singing?
There are breathing techniques for singing that will help you improve, and we will go through a few of these for you to practice. In this article, I will give you some of the best breathing exercises that you can use right away not only improve your breathing but also gain some of the health benefits of singing.
Table of Contents
Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises
Breathing from your diaphragm will not only help you sing better but it will help you relax. Here is a simple exercise that you can use to learn how to breathe from the diaphragm:
- Find a flat surface to lie on. Put some pillows down for your head and several to put under your knees so they are slightly bent.
- While lying down, put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. This will allow you to feel the way you breathe. Your abdomen should be the one expanding and tensing, not your chest and shoulders.
2. Once you inhale through your nose, you should feel your abdomen begin to expand.
3. Once you exhale, exhale through your mouth. While doing this, your diaphragm should contract. You will notice that it feels much easier to push the air out of your lungs while you do this without putting too much tension around your chest and neck area.
If you need a video demonstration of this exercise, you can watch this:
Here is an interesting exercise from the BBC’s website (1) called snatched breaths. This exercise is one of the best breath control exercises and is done by following these steps:
- Imagine your lungs filling up by fractions. Focus on diaphragmatic breathing and avoid breathing through your throat throughout the duration of this exercise.
- On the count of 1, breathe in through your nose filling a fourth of your lungs.
- On 2, breathe in once more to fill half of your lungs.
- On 3, breathe in again to fill 3 quarters.
- Finally, on 4, breathe in to completely fill your lungs with air.
- As you count from 5-12, breathe out gradually.
- Once more, on the count of 1, fill your lungs halfway.
- On 2, fill your lungs completely.
- As you count from 3-12 breathe out gradually.
Straw Breathing Exercise
This easy exercise can be performed while standing or sitting. It is one of the best breathing exercises to strengthen the lungs. Here are the steps to follow:
- Get a straw, feel free to pick a shorter straw if you find it too hard to do this exercise on a standard-sized straw.
- Bring the straw to your lips and put your lips around it.
- Inhale through the straw in four slow counts. You will find it difficult to inhale this way and that is natural.
- Exhale through the straw for four slow counts.
Keep repeating this exercise for stronger lungs. Once you are more used to this exercise, consider increasing the difficulty by increasing the length of the straw you are using.
Here is a video showing how to do this exercise properly:
Yoga Breathing Exercise
Yoga is known for its relaxing properties. It is one of the few exercises that are of great use to singers. Following breathing exercises from yoga lessons can help improve your breathing and in turn, your singing as well.
Here is a great video of yoga breathing exercises:
This exercise is one of the best breathing exercises to improve singing. Many coaches and vocal masters suggest that you do this exercise to be able to breathe better as you sing.
Not only does it help you reach the lower notes of your range, but it also helps with teaching you how to release your breath evenly.
Here are the steps for this exercise:
- Count to four as you breathe in through your nose.
- Let your breath out through your lips while making a hissing sound and count to four.
- Once more, breathe in through your nose for six counts.
- Then, exhale with a hiss for ten counts.
- Breathe in through your nose once more for six counts.
- Then, breathe out for twelve counts while hissing.
- Breathe in for four and then breathe out with a hiss for sixteen.
- Breathe in through your nose for two counts and then breathe out with a hiss for sixteen.
- Again, breathe in through your nose for four counts and breathe out with a hiss for 20.
- Finally, breathe in through your nose for one count and breathe out with a hiss for 20.
This video is a perfect demonstration of this exercise:
Singing Posture Exercises
Having the correct posture isn’t just good for your bones, it is also good for your voice. It is easy to forget our posture while we are focused on the quality of our voice. These singing posture exercises will not only help you with your form but will also help you breathe better as you sing.
- Stand Up Against A Wall. Stand up against a wall, keeping your head, shoulders, back, and buttocks flat against it. Keep this posture for a few minutes.
- Lean Your Body Weight Forward. This will give you a feel of where the tension points in your body are and cause you to be more aware of them. Lean back and forth several times from the tip of your toes to your soles.
Here is a great chart that displays how a singer’s stance should be:
Because breathing is a core component of singing, vocal warm-ups are also key to achieving better breathing techniques. Many vocal warm-ups focus on using your breath to bring out the best state of your voice.
There are plenty of vocal warm-ups available for you. I have an article that lists some of the best ones out there to make it easier for you to add them to your work-out plan.
How to Breathe While Singing?
Being able to take quick breaths during singing is an important skill. The rhythm of the song, the orchestra, and your fellow singers will not wait for you while you find your breath. Luckily, you can train yourself to achieve this by adopting a proper technique. Here is how you can do it:
- Feel the air around you as you breathe and imagine it being heavy.
- Inhale deeply and feel the air as it goes down your body, familiarize yourself with the sensation.
- Do this, faster and faster. This will train your lungs to take in huge gulps of air quickly so you don’t fall behind while you are singing. While you are training yourself to breathe properly during singing, you may find yourself yawning often. This is a perfectly natural physiological response as your brain gets confused by the amount of air you are letting in your lungs.
- For exhalation, try to get a hold of a feather. If you aren’t able to do this then you can simply visualize one.
- Try to blow the feather up in the air but avoid collapsing your chest as you breathe out.
- As you do this exercise, you will notice that your chest has not moved the whole time but your abdomen has relaxed quite considerably.
This exercise will not only help you train your lungs to take in the air quicker but it will also help you prolong your breath so you will find it easier to sustain your notes when you sing.
What Can Affect Your Breathing?
Singers have to pay extra attention to their bodies as one wrong move can cost them their skill.
Here are some of the factors you should think about if you find yourself having problems with breathing.
Bad Breathing Habits
With the amount of breathing exercises online, it is easy to pick up those that are not made for singers. Some of these exercises might cause unnecessary tension and may even develop into a bad habit as you continue to do them.
The exercises I provided in this article are specifically made to help singers improve their breathing while taking their career and skill into consideration. If you can, it is better to get a vocal coach to teach you the best breathing exercises and techniques.
However if you find yourself without time to go visit one regularly, you can opt-in for some online classes with very helpful lessons on breathing techniques. You can check out this article I wrote for some great suggestions.
Our diet is extremely important. A lot of foods can affect our vocal output and quality so we should do our best to stay away from them.
- Fried Food
- Ice Water
From mucous production, bad acid reflux and even thoroughly damaging our lungs and vocal cords, these foods are best to stay away from if you want to protect your precious gift.
This is your chance to tell anyone who has ever told you that anxiety is “just in your head” that they are wrong. Anxiety manifests itself physically in ways that make your body tense up. The symptoms can include cold sweats, nausea, hyperventilation and some even associate an anxiety attack to a heart attack.
There are different ways to overcome anxiety. One of them is to find a vocal coach that addresses the issue perfectly and gives you advice on how to overcome it. Christina Aguilera’s Masterclass is a good example of best online singing class that covers this very important topic in a singer’s career. If you want to check out her course, here’s a full review about it.
It is always important to observe proper technique not just in singing but in breathing as well. Also, constant practice and staying away from bad habits and diet will truly aid you in preserving your voice and improving your vocal quality.
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