5 Myths (and the Truth) About Breath Control for Singing
It’s no secret that breath control plays a huge part in our abilities as singers. In this article, I’ll share why good breath control is important for singers and dispel some common myths around it.
Having good breath control can cut down and eliminate unstable, shaky or wobbly voices. But if it persists after a few weeks of singing lessons, or is present when you speak, it could also be an indication of vocal cord damage. If you experience this, see your physician to be referred to a throat specialist and avoid long term or serious damage.
When you have solid breath control it opens up a world of creative possibilities for you as a singer, enabling you to create interesting and colourful phrases, dynamic control and melodic twists.
Good breathing techniques also help to calm your nerves and centre you for a strong performance - even in you’re in the shower!
Maybe you’ve been working on your breath control but not quite sure whether you’re doing it “right”. You want to utilise your whole instrument when you sing, so knowimg what works best is vital.
As an asthmatic, breath control hasn’t always come easy to me. But with the right approach, I have found a way to improve and maintain good breathing techniques that support my singing voice - and I’ve been sharing this with my students for the past twenty years.
Myths About Breath Control for Singing
Holding my breath for ages will help improve breath control.
Fact: Holding your breath increases tension. Anyone who’s familiar with my training knows that tension is the enemy of singing.
In reality, proper breathing techniques release tension and allow your the different parts of your instrument to work together to create beautiful sounds - even if you’re a death metal singer (side note: I love that distortion).
Relaxing your body and the muscles used for singing is what creates effective breath control.
2. I need to take in as much air as possible to hold long notes.
Fact: Taking in too much air results in discomfort and tension. Instead, take in as much air as you comfortably need to sing the phrase and do any choreography you have, no more. The more stamina you build through consistent practice, the more efficient your body will become at utilising the air you breathe.
3. The more you practice breath control, the longer you can hold a note.
Fact: While breath control plays a big role in vocal sustain (holding long notes), it’s not the only factor. You’ll also need to establish good technique. Vocal and physical stamina and dynamic control are also play their part.
4. Proper breath control can only happen when you breathe through your mouth.
Fact: You can breathe through your mouth and nose when you sing. While it’s better to use “catch breaths” (which occur in the mouth) during short phrases, or sections with lots of lyrics, breathing through your nose during gaps in vocalisation or a long phrase can actually filter the air and warm it up before it reaches your lungs.
5. Diaphragmatic breathing is the only way to breathe for singing.
Fact: There are lots of ways to breathe for singing. While diaphragmatic singing is highly effective and a great place to start and “warm up” your diaphragm, the key is to find what the technique that work best for you.
How to Use Breath Control When Singing
It’s important to maintain a relaxed posture and demeanour when we sing.
Taking in an appropriate amount of air that is suitable for the upcoming phrase helps to support your and avoid sudden bursts of air that can make your voice unstable. Using a combination of diaphragmatic breathing, upper-chest breathing (with proper training) and catch breaths will help you to add dynamics and expression to your songs and allow for more creative phrasing.
Back to Basics
While we could debate for hours the best ways to develop better breath control, the truth is that each individual will find a way that works best for them.
There are a number of techniques you can use and the best singers are able to use them in combination. However having a singing teacher to guide you and make sure you’re not creating more tension is the best way to start. A good singing teacher will be able to understand how your body works and how to make small tweaks to enhance your breathing techniques.
The 30 Days of Singing program includes tutorials for breathing. Click here to claim your free Starter Pack