Every Singer Needs to Know About Breathing
This is not surprising because the topic of breathing for singing is not the most exciting topic! This topic can be very confusing due to the many myths surrounding it. As a result, many singers simply ignore breathing and do not realize that good breathing technique is fundamental for healthy, powerful and tension-free singing.
1. Breathing and optimal posture go hand in hand
Everyone wants to go straight to practicing vocal exercises and singing songs. Who wants to spend time finding the optimal chest, body, and vocal tract posture? The truth is that good breathing technique cannot be developed if your chest, body, and vocal tract are not optimally aligned. For example, if you start breathing or singing with a collapsed chest, your diaphragm will not be able to descend fully, which means that your breathing for singing will most likely be inefficient and effortful.
Moreover, if your head, neck, shoulders, spine, hips or legs are misaligned, your body will compensate by engaging unnecessary muscles and creating tension. Breathing (and singing) then becomes laborious and ineffective. Finally, lifting the soft palate, widening the pharynx, lowering the larynx and positioning the articulators allow a singer to not only inhale silently and exhale efficiently, but most importantly to produce rich and powerful sound.
2. You cannot feel your diaphragm when inhaling or exhaling
How many times have you heard “breathe into your belly” or “put your hand on your belly to feel the diaphragm”?Well, this is not possible. You cannot breathe into your abdomen because the lungs are contained in your chest cavity. The lungs sit on top of the diaphragm.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that contracts downward during inhalation and pushes on the inner organs in your abdomen (viscera). There is not much space in the abdomen and as a result, the abdominal wall moves outward. This outward movement is often mistaken for the moving diaphragm. However, what you see and feel during inhalation is the inner organs being pushed down and out by a descending diaphragm.
3. Good breathing technique is a skill that needs to be learned
Why would a singer need to learn how to breathe? We all breathe naturally and subconsciously. But there are some fundamental differences between “breathing” and “breathing technique”. The breathing cycle is longer during singing, there is more muscle engagement and the diaphragm descends lower during breathing for singing versus breathing during speaking or at rest.
Efficient breathing technique for singing will make your voice powerful, flexible and rich. It will allow you to connect your voice to your breath and use the energy and support of your body to make beautiful sounds. If you are serious about singing, don’t ignore this topic. Include some breathing exercises into your daily routine and learn how to breathe efficiently when singing.