Where the lungs are positioned in the body
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Breathing Technique for Singing – “Take a deep breath”

“Take a deep breath” is an often misused vocal direction to imply that in order to sing for a longer phrase you just need to have more air in the lungs.

That isn’t entirely untrue, but in most cases it causes you breathe in too much air, filling the lower part of the lungs & the upper chest cavity full to the point where tension builds & the voice becomes unstable. Did you see my post about singing from the diaphragm? There I go more in depth about what happens with the diaphragm there. 

TAKE A DEEP BREATH?

“Take a deep breath” is either going to be used to ask you to ration the air better (ie: close your vocal folds).

Yes of course breath control is a technique that we need for singing but let’s dive a bit deeper into what breath control really is a bit more.

Or, can mean that you need to thicken up the vocal folds in order to sing louder. 

Lastly, it may also mean that you just didn’t breathe enough. We need to take on enough air for the musical phrase in singing. No more & well, definitely no less. 

BUT WHY SHOULDN’T I TAKE A DEEP BREATH?

Well, I am not saying that you shouldn’t, sometimes, where needed take on a large amount of air. But it needs to be proportionate to the phrase you are singing. If you are going to be singing a classical which spans over 15 bars you are going to need a lot of air in the tank.

For the most part, beginner singers & those who sing Pop & Rock music will most likely need a lot less air than one might think. Tanking up on air which you do not need, may cause your tone to be more breathy &  potentially sing out of tune, scratch, miss your note & in the end still probably not be able to sing to the end of the phrase in one go. Damn it! 

WHAT IS BREATH CONTROL ANYWAY?

Breath control is exactly what it says on the box. The ability to control the flow of the breath as it passed through the True Vocal Folds. 

Before we dive into how to control your breath we have to look at how we actually sing. What happens before we sing that first note & why does everyone bang on about breath so much. 

Like with any instrument we have to have a source to the sound. The source of the sound for singers is the vocal folds (or cords). The vocal folds live within the larynx. 

In super simple terms we breathe in air into the lungs, the true vocal folds then close. Next we start the movement of breath back out given pitch and the sound comes out of  the mouth (hopefully, it could come out the nose). The true vocal folds. these little dudes make up the valve that sits within the larynx on top of the trachea and they decide how much, or how little air comes out of the lungs. The breath is actually controlled by a number of factors but in basic terms the vocal folds determine how much air comes out of the lungs. The rate at which the air gets released is then based on the pitch, tone, consonants, underlying tension and volume.  

But we are just looking at the concept of “take a deep breath” for today and why it isn’t the best phrase there is.  

HOW CAN I BREATHE BETTER?

Let’s start by getting rid of a lot of that pent up tension. Try lying down on your back, hand on your tummy & feeling the rise & fall of your breath.

Here is where a lot of trainers start to diverge in their opinions. Let’s start with how we sing: super simple here we breathe in air, then we close the true vocal folds, which in turn then move to create the given pitch and the sound comes out of  the mouth (hopefully, it could come out the nose). The true vocal folds. these little dudes make up the valve that sits within the larynx on top of the trachea and they decide how much, or how little air comes out of the lungs. The breath is actually controlled by a number of factors but in basic terms the vocal folds determine how much air comes out of the lungs. The rate at which the air gets released is then based on the pitch, tone, consonants, underlying tension and volume.  

But we are just looking at the concept of “take a deep breath” for today and why it isn’t the best phrase there is.

To sum it all up. Breathing is all about ensuring that you have enough air in the tank to go the distance, the shorter the phrase the less air you will need on the flipside the longer the phrase the more air you will need. Let’s just stop getting so obsessed with breath (cause it is everywhere) and start focusing more on vocal folds control, let the tummy muscles go & let the air drop into the lungs. 

Have fun learning all about the Diaphragm over in my “How to Sing from Your Diaphragm” post.

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