If you have read some of my articles you have probably noticed that I put a lot of emphasis on breathing. Most people think that in order to be a singer you only have to have a good voice, this is far from the truth. What makes a good singer is a combination of several factors live vocal cords, singing technique and so on, but all of them rely on one thing, breathing. Think of breathing as the foundation of your singing, without it talent and skill don’t really matter.
A bad singer with a good breathing technique will and can outperform a naturally talented singer who has no clue how and when to breathe during the song. If you are a beginner singer and you often hear that you sing out of tune than breathing might be the cause for it. When you are singing you have to inhale and exhale at certain times during the song, if you exhale or inhale at the wrong time you will sound out of tune as it messes up your tempo.
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This is why some singers struggle with new songs, they haven’t figured out yet when to inhale and exhale during the song. Generally speaking, most advanced singers will have almost no problem singing a new song as they are so comfortable with their breathing technique that they can adjust it for any song in just a couple of seconds. As a singer, the most important thing about breathing is that you have to use your diaphragm if you want more information about how to use your diaphragm for singing than check out my recent article How to sing from your diaphragm? ( 11 Fast & Easy Steps ).
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The first breathing exercise is actually a simple exercise which is meant for relaxing yourself. My recommendation is to do this standing up, preferably in front of the mirror so you can see your posture. Stand up straight, shoulders back and try to relax, now inhale through your nose deeply and hold you breathe a couple of seconds, now exhale slowly. Try to inhale and exhale slowly during this exercise, and around 5-10 minutes should be enough to get your self relaxed.
Make sure that you are also using your diaphragm, just place one hand on your stomach and when you inhale than your stomach should also inflate. If you have never tried breathing with your diaphragm, then congratulations, you are already doing it. In addition to breathing exercises, you should also focus on developing your own breathing technique, for more information check out my recent article Proper breathing technique for singing ( Top 12 Techniques ).
Lay on your back
Put something on the ground like a Yoga mat and lay on it, make sure that your shoulders are touching the mat or the ground. Place one of your hand on your stomach, and the other one vertically to your body, both palms should face downward. Raise your knees and make sure that they are touching each other. Now inhale slowly and keep the air inside for a couple of seconds, and make sure that you are using your diaphragm by keeping your hand on your stomach.
From here exhale slowly and repeat the cycle a couple of times, just note that these breathing exercises is extremely relaxing so try to keep your eyes open as you might fall asleep.
This exercise is meant to make your diaphragm stronger, you can do it in a couple of positions like laying on your back, standing up or sitting. My personal recommendation is to do this standing up, as this is the position in which you will actually sing, and your diaphragm will be activated to its fullest in this position. The hissing exercise is fairly similar to the previous exercises with one exception, you will do the hissing sound.
Open your lips, not your mouth and make sure that your bottom teeth are touching your upper teeth, now make a hissing sound, something similar to what a snake does. You will feel the air pressure coming out between your teeth, and this is the goal of the exercise. Stand up straight, inhale and keep the air inside for a couple of seconds, then slowly exhale making the hissing sound. You will notice that your diaphragm and your abs will also contract, this is a good sign, and keep it up for around 10 minutes.
Book on the head exercise
A lot of singers have a massive problem with their posture while singing, and this will limit their ability to breathe while singing. To fix this, I have a simple exercise for you, first, you need to find a book, try to pick one that has more pages and thus it also weighs more, you can either use a book with a hardcover or not, it is up to you what feels comfortable. Now for the hard part, place the book on your head, and inhale and exhale slowly, keep the air inside for a couple of seconds and make sure that you are using your diaphragm.
At first, you will find it difficult as the book form the top of your head will fall several times. If you are having difficulty even keeping the book on your head than my recommendation is to practice just keeping the book on your head till you get the hang of it. Now for the hard part, after a couple of days, you should be able to do the breathing exercise with the book on your head without any problems.
Now start walking with the book on your head and while doing the breathing exercises, if you have never tried this exercise you might think that it is easy, just try it. My grandmother who was an opera singer taught me this exercise and I have been using it ever since I even teach this breathing exercise to my students. If you want to know why is breathing so important fora ll singers, then check out my recent article Why is breathing important in singing? ( Top 6 Reasons ).
Humming is a great breathing exercise as it will allow you to exhale both through your nose and mouth at the same time, which you will have to do during some parts of a song. Stand up straight, shoulders relaxed, inhale and keep the air in for a couple of seconds. When exhaling, make a humming sound, just make sure that your upper and lower teeth are touching and your lips are opened. With these exercises, you will make your diaphragm stronger and you will learn how to properly control the airflow.
Put one of your hands in front of your mouth and nose to check if you are using both of them when exhaling. If you can not sense the airflow with your hands then grab a small mirror or a smartphone and place it in front of your mouth and nose, this way you will see clearly if you are using both of them. You can also place your hand horizontally on your upper lip and you should feel your hand vibrating.
Now for the harder version, just do the same exercise but with one extra thing added, small breaks or pauses during the humming. Just keep in mind to do it slowly and to keep exhaling while making the humming sound for at least a couple of seconds.
You probably already heard about straw breathing, I highly recommend it, although I do it somewhat differently. Just imagine that you are having a straw in your mouth and that you are inhaling tough the straw, just keep in mind not to use your nose. Imagine yourself blowing air into a balloon, and try to keep a constant airflow. There is no need to take breaks as some would suggest as this might make you hyperventilate and faint.
The bouncy breathing exercises are fairly popular amongst, beginner singers, stand up straight shoulders back, inhale air slowly and do either the hissing or the humming, but add a small break to it. In addition to this, you can add higher and lower-pitched sounds for better control. Try going from the lower notes towards the higher notes in a controlled fashion, once you have a grip on how to do this exercise correctly than do it in reverse.
After a couple of days of practicing this exercise you should start increasing the tempo, inhaling should be slow, but while you are doing the up and down scales of the humming and hissing you should speed it up.
When you think of jogging you probably don’t think it is a breathing exercise, the truth is that jogging is an excellent breathing exercise and it will even allow you to expand your lung capacity. While you are jogging, your heart rate will go up, and so will your breathing become faster and faster, especially if you mix in some short sprints. There are some singers who no matter what kind of breathing exercise they do, they still run out of breath while singing.
This is not because they do not know when or how to breathe during a song but because their lung capacity is fairly small and doesn’t allow them to sing properly. So if you are having this problem then I highly recommend you to start jogging 20-30 minutes a day and after a couple of weeks, you will notice that you will not go out of breath while you are singing.
This breathing exercise focuses on inhaling and expanding your lung capacity. Stand up straight, shoulders back, and inhale through your nose with small increments. Basically, breathe in a little, then make a pause of a couple of seconds, then breath in again, repeat the cycle till your lungs are full of air and then slowly exhale, you can even add these breaks while you are exhaling. One thing to keep in mind is that you should inhale and exhale only tough your nose.
Most singers think the faster they breathe during an exercise the more they develop their diaphragm and lung capacity. The problem is that while you are breathing fast you do not engage your diaphragm and lungs to their maximum capacity as fast breathing is fairly shallow. Stand up straight, shoulders back, mouth closed and with one finger on one of your nostrils to close it down. Now inhale slowly till you fill your lungs with air.
From here you should hold the air in for a couple of seconds and slowly exhale, just keep in mind to hold your finger on one of your nostrils. Once you do this a couple of times, then it is time to switch which of your nostrils you block, you should also switch between nostrils while inhaling and exhaling for maximum effect.
Believe it or not but panting like a dog is actually a good breathing exercise. Although my personal recommendation is to also add humming and hissing sounds while you are exhaling and always keep one of your hands on your stomach to check if you are using your diaphragm. Some singers will actually contract their abs while panting, don’t do this as the point of any breathing exercise is to focus on your diaphragm, so relax your abs.
What makes or breaks a singer is their ability to breathe, if you practice breathing every day than you will definitely see improvements in your ability to sing, after only a couple of months. Do note that you should always focus on your diaphragm no matter what kind of breathing exercise you do, and most importantly relax your ab muscles so that it doesn’t interfere with your diaphragm contracting and expanding.