Georgie Cooper, our in-house Vocal Coach, Songwriter and Music Producer has some amazing tips here to help you breathe easy when singing. Whether you are a performer, studio singer or somebody who just likes to sing for the sheer fun of it, apply one or two of these techniques today to take you singing skills up a gear. Over to you Georgie….
The first thing I teach every new singing student is how to breathe correctly. It is often misunderstood how the breathing process differs between singing and speech. For speech we only need a shallow breath but for singing we use a deep breathing technique known as intercostal diaphragmatic breathing. So many singers come to me having got by using only shallow breaths - they are amazed at the results when they have learned and applied these following techniques! In this article I share my time tested tricks and tips to help you also master correct breathing when singing.
How To Learn To Breathe When Singing Tip #1 - Lie Down
The easiest way to start, is to lie on your back on the floor. Yes, you read it right, try this one for yourself now. The same way we breathe at night when tucked up in our beds is the SAME way we should breathe for singing. Place your hands on your tummy. Now take a deep breath in. Notice what your hands are doing? They should go up and down. (If they aren't, move your hands along to the point of your belly that IS moving, as everyone has a different length torso.) Literally, they should be rising with each inhalation and falling with each exhalation. That simple! Now stand up and do the same thing on your feet.
Learn How To Breathe Properly When Singing Tip #2 - Milkshake
Ok, so now we're standing and taking deep breaths in. Tilt your chin slightly downwards to widen the route for your airways. Next, hold an imaginary milkshake in front of you. (With young students I ask them to decide what flavour it is). Now suck the imaginary milkshake dry all in one go (breathe in until you can go no further!) Make sure you do it without 'straw' lips as you would for singing. You will find you are able to breathe deeply, much quicker. With practise, this same sucking technique will enable you to inhale a deep inflation in JUST one second - reassurance when you only have a beat or less to recover between lyric lines.
FACT: When breathing for singing we do NOT go through our noses. It takes too long and we can't get enough air in one beat (or less!) between lyric lines. Leave that for yoga.
How Should I Be Breathing When I Sing? Tip #4 - Shoulders Down
Stand and face a mirror. Take a deep breath in. Your shoulders should be loose and relaxed. Any tension will prevent you from getting a full expansion of your ribcage. You should feel as if you are breathing inwards and downwards into your core. Place your hands on your tummy as a visual guide. They should be moving outwards when you breathe in and inwards when you breathe out. You will know if you're doing it wrong if you see your shoulders moving up towards your ears.
Getting Your Breathing Right When You Sing Matters Tip #5 - Hold Your Breath
Ok, so now you understand where it comes from and where it's going. Have a feel around for your ribcage front and back. Imagine, that's the extent of your lung capacity! Now take a deep breath in and hold it for a few seconds - and exhale. Once you're comfortable with that, practise the technique using your singing warm ups and scales. Much easier right?
TIP: Sometimes we feel lightheaded while practising this - that's a sign it's working!
Put Some Of These Breathing Techniques Together The Next Time You Sing
Top Tip for singing from lyric sheets: A good habit to get into is to mark your breathing points on lyric sheets. Use a capitol B for a big breath and a lower case b for a quick breath. Now get singing! Use your new breathing technique at every pause and interval. You should feel a lot more power in your voice and singing will take a lot less effort. You will probably wonder how you ever managed before!
About Georgie Cooper
Georgie Cooper has been coaching and training singers of all ability levels for over 15 years in and around the South East of England. In these articles (yes, we have plenty more in the pipeline) she aims to break down common singing techniques to help you to take your vocal skills up a notch or two by yourself. If you need some one-to-one vocal coaching at our studio or over Skype with Georgie please get in touch with us via our contact page.