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Learning to Sing Better: The Tremendous Importance of Breathing

To someone who doesn’t sing, it may seem strange to put a lot of emphasis on breathing. After all, we all know how to breathe, right? Normal breathing and breathing for singing are different things, though.

In normal breathing, people usually take a shallow breath, breathe out, pause, then take the next shallow breath. This is seldom sufficient for singing.

When you sing, the vocal instrument you are using is your vocal cords. The sound is created by air moving over the vocal cords and making them vibrate. If you run out of breath when singing, you stop singing. It is as simple as that. Running out of breath means there is no more air left to make the vocal cords vibrate, so no sound comes out.

In turn, this means that to sing properly, you need to breathe deeply to fill the bellows (your lungs). It is worthwhile learning how to do it and to practice it. That isn’t at all silly because when you are singing a melody, you often will have very little time to take a breath. One technique for rapidly taking a deep breath is to breathe as if you are yawning. When we yawn, we actually do take a fast but deep breath. The mouth is wide, the chest expands and the abdomen pulls downward.

Most people don’t think about it, but it is the movement of the abdomen that is primarily responsible for breathing. The core muscles draw down the diaphragm, creating a vacuum in the chest, making the lungs fill up. We do all of this without conscious thought, most of the time. However, if we want a deep breath, the idea is to draw the abdomen down farther, as if you are trying to draw everything to a point below your belly button.

For most people, this doesn’t feel natural, so it requires practice to get used to doing it. Timing is also important. New singers will often just take a breath when they feel the need for one. Doing it that way, with no planning, often means that you’ll run out of breath, will tend to sing flat, and it may cause your voice to crack. Consider that every time you moved from one note to either a higher or lower note, you require more air.

The practice isn’t too hard, though. A few times a day, take a few minutes to do this; put your hand on your belly (so you can be aware of what is happening) and consciously push your belly down and out. You should feel your chest expand as your lungs fill fully with air. This exercise is even useful for athletes and people who are getting ready to exert themselves, such as when lifting something heavy.

Once you’ve practiced to the point where you can quickly take a deep breath, you should start to see an improvement in your singing. It is nearly impossible to sing with a good, rich chest voice, or any other voice, for that matter, without a full, deep breath.

  • Have you ever practiced deep breathing?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’m going to start trying to

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Written by Rex Trulove

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