Why does breathing technique matter?

In our normal everyday life we breathe unconsciously and automatically – we don’t have to think about it. As singers we use the same breathing anatomy and apparatus, but we have to use it in a special way. Successful breath management contributes to at least 21 different elements of singing:

  1. Onset – how we start a note cleanly, musically and healthily
  2. Duration – how long we can sing for on one breath
  3. Release – how we finish a note with its full ‘bloom, without it collapsing in tone, and without tightening the throat
  4. Renewals – how we refill our lungs (sometimes very quickly) after singing a note or phrase
  5. Volume – how loudly or softly we can sing
  6. Volume variation – how we move between different loudness levels
  7. Stability of tone – how we maintain a good ‘core sound’, consistency of vocal ‘colour’ during a note, across our full pitch range, and across the full range of vowel sounds
  8. Vibrato – how we maintain the vibrancy and warmth in our sound
  9. “Ring’ in the voice – how we create what is variously called the ‘edge’, ’cut’, ‘ring’ or ‘steel’ in our sound
  10. Tonal variation – how we vary the ‘colour’ or timbre in our sound
  11. Pitch range – how we sing higher (and lower) with greater stability of tone and physical ease, as well as have more expressive versatility at extremes of pitch range
  12. Intervals and register transitions – how we can move between different pitch areas, and remove the feeling or sound of any ‘breaks’, register transitions or ‘gear shifts’ in the voice
  13. Agility – how quickly we can sing a set of words or rhythms, or move between pitches (including riffs)
  14. Enunciation – how we make every vowel and consonant clearly audible and understood, with the minimum of effort
  15. Phrasing – how we make subtle alterations in volume, speed and vocal colour simultaneously to convey a wide variety of meanings
  16. Musical versatility – how we can access a wide range of vocal styles, whether it’s classical and opera, folk, or jazz, scatting, soul, ballad, pop, crooning and country, through to music theatre, R&B, rock, punk, heavy, death & thrash metal, and so on
  17. Personal expression – how we can truly express what the music and words mean for us
  18. Performance stamina – how we can take the workload away from the tongue and jaw, the throat, neck and shoulders, so that we can sing for much longer, practise for longer, and perform more songs without getting tired
  19. Recovery rate – how our voices recover more quickly between periods of singing, so we can rehearse and perform, day after day, without getting tired
  20. Vocal health – how we protect our voices from strain, becoming hoarse, or developing nodules on our vocal folds
  21. Long vocal life – how we can avoid burnout and enjoy a healthy, vibrant vocal life into at least our 70s

We learned earlier that how we Align can improve our Breathing, Vibrating and Resonating systems. Now we have learned that how we Breathe affects basically everything we care about in singing (including those Phonating and Resonating systems). As we work through the concepts of singing (Alphabet Map and A-J of Singing), we’re going to cover many more details. But it is amazing how many singing problems can be solved just by improving technique in these two areas – Aligning and Breathing.

2 thoughts on “Why does breathing technique matter?”

  1. What I have to do on stage when I make light dancing movement on stage while singing. the breathing doesn’t work and start to be tired.

    1. It’s possible that you are compromising the fundamentals of singer’s breathing (when sounding, keep ribs open and contract the core muscles). But you may be sending your neck, head and shoulders out of alignment – the larynx (with vocal folds) and resonating space may then be compromised. This then compromises the balance of forces wih the breathing mechanism. You need a good singing teacher to observe you dancing and singing, to help you find where you are compromising your vocal instrument.

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