Singing Tips

Breath Control in Singing: What is Breath Control? 

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Breath control in singing enables you to hit high notes, produce a powerful sound, protect the voice and develop a pleasant tone. It comes with practice and good technique, using the diaphragm rather than raising your chest and shoulders. 

Have you always wanted rich, strong and sustained vocals? In this article, we’ll explain what breath control is exactly and how to achieve it. This will help you sing and better both off and on stage.  

Breath control in singing 

Why do singers need to control their breathing? Maintaining the health and accuracy of your voice is paramount. Breath control exercises can help you to keep your voice and lungs strong and healthy. It is, therefore, an essential practice for artists who want to sing long term and professionally. Working on breathing exercises and techniques for vocal control will help you to be the best that you can be. 

We’ll be taking a look at how breath control can make all the difference in enabling you to hit high notes and spit out a rap. Don’t expect to see results overnight, it takes a little time to get the muscles prepped. You have to play the long game and keep at it, but it’s well worth the effort. Developing good breath control is the foundation for singing. It’ll not only improve your vocals, but it’ll also make you healthier too.   

What is breath control?  

Few of us breathe as fully and deeply as we should. Our bodies are designed to operate better when taking in more breath, filling and expanding the lungs like a balloon. However, it’s not just the inhalation that has a profound effect on the body.  Breath control is about using your diaphragm to fill your lungs with air and then gradually release it. Breath control exercises help you improve your lung capacity and power your high notes without losing too much breath on one note.   

How do you improve breath control? 

You’ll need breathing exercises to for a good warm-up and for whenever you perform. If you lose your breath and stop singing, you risk ruining your reputation. Many people with breathing problems use voice lessons as a way of improving the issue, but there are some more breathing exercises and techniques which you can try yourself at home. 

You can achieve control over your inhalations and exhalations that’ll make a huge difference to your vocals and performance. But first, you must learn how to do it. Let’s take a look at breath control exercises for singers, that achieve the results you want.   

Breathing exercises for singing 

One of the most important parts of learning how to sing is learning how to breathe correctly. Breathing exercises are very important to singers as they help improve breath control and can help keep your voice strong. 

Many breathing issues that singers encounter, such as running out of breath before the end of phrases, are often down to the internal muscles (the vocal cords & larynx) not being used correctly.  

Lie on the floor, relax and breathe normally. You should notice as you breathe in your stomach and rib cage rise (inflate) and as you breathe out they get smaller again (deflate). This helps to feel you breathe into the back of the diaphragm, as you feel resistance against the floor.  

Let your breath out slowly. Letting all your breath out in one go won’t help you control it and help train your diaphragm to stay in control of your breathing. This will stop you from letting all of your air out when you try and hit high notes. 

Breath control is harder on the out-breath than the inhalation. So don’t worry if it first you struggle to keep it slower. It’s just a matter of time and very regular practice. 

Breathing exercises for singing: PDF resources 

If you don’t manage your breath and support your singing, you could potentially damage your voice. This is especially true for anyone singing high notes. We naturally tend to use more air with high notes so if you don’t breathe properly, the high notes will put even more strain on your voice. Focusing on your diaphragm and lungs will make sure that you have the capacity for high notes and maintain a healthy voice. You can download more breath control exercises for singing in PDF format from these websites.  

Fun breathing exercises for singing 

Your exercises don’t need to be dull. You can even have a laugh while developing breath control! 

Practice songs in slow motion. This will help to develop control with your air pressure & flow. While carrying out this breath control technique, think of squeezing a tube of toothpaste from the bottom up to keep that steady flow. If you practice more slowly, it will prevent you from rushing your words to get them out on your breath. It might sound funny singing in slow motion, but that’s part of the joy of it.  

Practice doing short mini laughs with a breath in between. For example, “Ha” breathe “Ha” breathe “Ha”. On every “Ha” make sure the stomach is going in and on the breath going back out. This is especially good for rappers who won’t have the time to take longer breaths while performing. 

Breath control exercises for rappers 

circular breathing rapping

Great breath control is very important for developing your vocal range, quality of tone, ability to hold on to notes, but also for your rapping skills. As hip-hop becomes more popular in pop music, many top singers such as Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande are incorporating rapping into their music.  

Unlike hitting high notes, which could use one breath on a single word or run, rapping and fast singing or speak-singing, requires an ability to get many words out on one breath. 

Whilst the same fundamentals of breathing with your diaphragm is required, you also need to focus more on diction and stamina. You could end up rapping more words in a single verse than other singers do in a whole EP and this will require a lot of breath. 

If you’ve written lyrics for rapping then you need to stay on top of when you’re going to breathe. If you try writing breaths into your lyrics then this will help you power your words and maintain your timing. 

Breathing exercises for singing fast songs 

If you prefer to watch instructional videos before trying something new, YouTube is always a great source of information and assistance. A tip with this is to look out for a vocal coach with their own channel covering all aspects of singing, rather than one-off videos, such as these from Eric Arceneaux, who founded AAproach and has plenty of breathing exercises for singing on YouTube.   

Then if you enjoy their style you can work on a number of techniques with a familiar style of teaching – it also saves time hunting around for a new video each time you want to learn something fresh. Check out the number of views they have and how often they upload new videos, as this can be an indicator of popularity (which is likely linked to results and quality of content).  

It’s not just big ballads that need sustained and strong support. Fast songs require a very specific technique to ensure you stay on top of every note and lyric. 

How breath control can change your life 

There are plenty of benefits of breath control that extend beyond singing. If you have stronger lungs, you’ll recover better from respiratory infections. But its’s not only your physical health that’ll benefit. A career in the music industry can be pretty stressful. Even getting up on stage can bring a lot of anxiety for many performers.  Breathing exercises have the added benefit of reducing stress and anxiety, help combat insomnia and lead to better overall health. All of which will contribute to you being a happier, healthier performer.   

If you find yourself getting nervous or stressed before a show, take 2 or 3 minutes to find a quiet spot and breathe slowly and deeply, counting in and out. Not only will it help your voice for singing but it should help calm your nerves 

Controlled breathing techniques 

Learning to achieve long, steady exhales has the added benefit of calming the sympathetic nervous system, the bit that controls the ‘fight or flight response’. Breathing acts as nature’s way of relieving anxiety and stress. And the ability to regulate nerves and pre-show anxiety is a great skill for a singer too. This is particularly relevant for people living with asthma, where breath control can be tricky. Try this: 

  1. Give your face, neck and chest a good stretch. You need your muscles to be loose and relaxed before you can take in the breath correctly and hit high notes. 
  2. Have a good yawn while you’re at it and keep your muscles warm.  
  3. Tense up every single muscle in your body for a count of five, then let everything go completely. It should leave you feeling more relaxed than before. 
  4. Place your hand on your diaphragm and pull your breath from here.  
  5. Count up to 5 on the inward breath. 
  6. Make sure your shoulders are not rising when you take that breath. Ask someone else to hold your shoulders down gently as you breathe. Having a little resistance will help make you aware when you are lifting them. You could also use a mirror to keep an eye on them and watch where the movement is happening in the body.   
  7. Then breathe out for 5. Really concentrate on the movement in this area of the body. If that’s easy, increase the count and repeat.  
  8. See how high on the count you can go. It should build over time.  

Your breathing exercises should start much lower down with your stomach & diaphragm muscles expanding like bellows. If your stomach goes in when you breathe in, you’re doing it the wrong way round. 

It’s clear that breath control exercises for singers offer a route to improved and safer vocals. Even if you’ve been singing for ages without using any, now is the time to build them into your practice and experience the benefits. Practice the exercises listed here, via a YouTube coach, or a singing teacher. Little and often works well. Basic breath control techniques can be done anywhere, anytime, making it a convenient way to work your vocals. Expect it to be at least a few weeks before you start to notice a difference.  

Related Questions 

  • What is the 4 7 8 breathing technique?

This is a technique whereby you breathe in for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 7 and release on a count of 8. It takes practice, but this helps you build strength and stamina in your diaphragm and lungs.  

  • How can I strengthen my lungs? 

Exercise, as well as singing, increases your lung capacity. Running forces you to take quick big breaths to keep you going. Disciplines like pilates, Tai Chi or yoga encourage longer more drawn out methods of breath control. Mix them both into your routine, along with a lot of singing exercises.  

  • Why do I run out of breath when singing?   

This is due to a combination of shallow breaths taken too high in the body and lack of control in the way you’re releasing the air you have taken in, causing it to rush out. The vocal cords should resist the air coming out, but not in a way that produces any tension – this is where control counts.    

How have you improved your breath control in singing? Are there any online videos that have helped you? Tell us about it and share your links in the comments below.