breathing exercises for singing
Why do Breathing exercises?
To sing we need good breath control and freedom of breathing. For this to happen, we need to use breathing exercises to help release tensions that we don’t need in singing. And to condition the breathing muscles so that they are flexible, firm and responsive.
Good breathing starts with good posture
Before you start to work on your breathing exercises, you should make sure that your posture is good. As this has a huge effect on your ability to breath correctly (here is my Posture For Singing article if you would like to read about it a little more). OK so if you ‘re cool with your posture it’s time to learn some excellent breathing exercises to condition your breathing and wake it up.
Breathing exercises for singing
The surprise inhale – Breathing Exercise No.1
It’s important that you work your inhale muscles. When you sing you want to get the air in as quickly as you can so as not to interrupt the flow of the song. Fast songs can be tricky, so it’s crucial that you wake up the inhale muscles for this task.
To do the surprised inhale, imagine that someone has just jumped out on you and surprised you, Boo!! If the posture is good, you should feel that air rushes into the body almost jerking into the waist area. To start with this mild jerk is fine, in time try to find balance so that the flow is instant and smooth.
If you didn’t feel the air flow in suddenly, then try again. Remember that the posture is essential for this to work properly. Ready…Boo!!! Surprise (Gasp). Keep doing this until you can feel the sensation.
In this surprised inhale the air is taken in through the mouth, but ideally, you want to breathe in through the nose where ever possible as the nose cleans and moistens the air.
No Noisy Breathing, please
Now let’s turn our attention the fact that the inhale is noise. A noisy inhale is not cool as that sound is your vocal folds obstructing the ingress of air. This means that you get less air in and dry out your vocal folds just before you go to sing, really not cool!
Work on opening your vocals completely when you inhale (a great exercise for learning to do this is the pre-yawn). This will stop this problem.
Once you can breathe in quickly its time to move onto the next exercise.
The Pulsing SSss – Breathing Exercise No.2
The pulsing ss is one of my favourite exercises for waking up the breathing muscles (the diaphragm and supporting muscles). It also helps you to work on a deeper exhale which is exactly what you need if you have to sing a long line on one breath.
Start by saying smooth, now just hold the s at the beginning and you get ssssssss. Now make it go louder and quieter like this:
As you do this, you can monitor your breathing response by using the breathing for singing monitoring hands that I explain in this article.
You should feel as you pulse the ss that the upper belly pushes out a little and the lower belly pulls in a little. As you get nearer and nearer to the end of your breath, you will find that the lower belly will pull in more and more. Go with this as long as you can, what you are doing here is conditioning your breathing so that you can exhale for longer. Good job!
Remember when doing any breathing work if you get light headed stop and take a breath, only continue when you feel that you’re comfortably breathing again. It will take time to get used to using more air than you are used to which is what you are doing when you are exhaling for longer.
The smooth SS – Breathing exercise No.3
This is very similar to the pulsing ss, here though we are working on getting rid of just as much air as we did in the pulsing ss but now in a smooth way. You are aiming for a smooth even exhale. Remember that you sing on the exhale, so it’s crucial that you exhale smoothly. This will then encourage your throat to stay open, your tone to be smooth sounding and not pitchy.
So start by breathing in slowly through the nose – let’s not use the surprise inhale for the moment – focus your attention on the lower back and allow the air to start filling there. Then feel it fill around your waist to the front. Once you feel comfortably full then slowly release the ss work on making it as slow and even as possible. Keep the tongue lightly pressed against the top of the mouth as the more pressure you apply here, the more you take the control away from the slow releasing breath support muscles. As the objective is the slow release of the breathing muscles keeping the tongue light will help with this.
Here is an example of the smooth ss:
Practice, Practice, Practice
Keep practising this skill breathing in slowly and then out slowly. As before if you get light headed stop, breathe normally for a bit then start again or come back another day. Practice a little every day, and you will notice a difference in your singing. You will be able to hold long notes smoothly and sing longer lines with one breath.
When you are confident with this exercise, then add the surprised inhale instead of the slow inhale and you’re working your breathing muscles in a way that you would when singing.
Remember to sing well you need a quick inhale and a nice slow controlled smooth exhale.
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This is vocal coach Dylan signing out Yo!!!