Causes of shortness of breath while singing ( 11 Most Common Causes )

Not being able to breathe properly as a singer could be a nightmare, especially if you do not know the cause of it. In this article, I will address the most common causes, do note that some might even scare you as you will have to go to a doctor but my recommendation is to eliminate as soon as possible health-related issues that could cause you to no be able to breathe properly.

There are two major causes for shortness of breath while singing, bad breathing technique while singing or health-related issues. Singers who do not breathe correctly while singing will often run out of breath in the middle of the song. On the other hand, if you had no previous problems with running out of breath while singing before but all of a sudden you do then you most likely have a health-related issue, such as a throat infection.

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There could be a lot of reasons why singers simply run out of breath while singing. Generally, speak this problem is most noticeable for beginner singers, however, it is not limited only to them. Usually, there are two main common causes of shortness of breathing while you sing, mainly the lack of a proper breathing technique or an underlying health issue. In case of a lack of a proper breathing technique, this can be easily fixed by simply learning how to properly breathe while singing.

However, if you have developed some health-related issues usually affecting either your lungs or your throat then it could be a more serious problem. My personal recommendation if you suddenly find yourself with shortness of breath while singing and you didn’t have this problem before then make an appointment with a doctor, this way you will eliminate at least one of the probable causes, and hopefully you do not have any health-related issues.

As I have mentioned previously one of the main causes could be that you are not breathing correctly while you are singing, a lot of beginner singers make the mistake of singing out of their throat. While some can get away with it for some time, sooner or later you will have to learn how to breathe from your diaphragm if you are serious about singing. If you want to know the difference between singing from the throat and the diaphragm and which one is better then check out my recent article Singing from diaphragm vs throat ( Which one is better? ).

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Identify why you have shortness of breath while singing

Your first step is to identify what exactly causes you to have shortness of breath while singing. Do not simply ignore the problem, far too often singers simply ignore this problem, and oftentimes this could even end up hindering their singing career in case they have a medical condition. I know that most people are terrified of going to the doctor as they might get some unexpected bad news which nobody wants, but sooner or later you will have to check yourself out with a physician.

  • Health-related issues: There could be a number of health-related issues that can cause shortness of breath, anything from a simple swelling of the throat to serious health conditions. It is imperative that you consult a physician, if you are healthy then you should go further down the list. The major problem with health issues is that problems do not come alone, you might even find that you are suffering from different types of health-related issues at the same time.
  • Bad breathing practice: This is more common for beginner singers as they usually do not have a vocal coach to teach them how to properly breathe by using their diaphragm. If you are a beginner singer follow my guide on how to properly learn to breathe from the diaphragm How to get a good singing voice without lessons ( In 12 Easy Steps ).
  • Lack of warm-up: Warm-up plays a big part in keeping your musical instrument which is your body healthy and ready to sing, far too often beginner singers simply do not warm up and once they start singing they will lose their breath.

Bad breathing technique can cause shortness of breath while singing

There are a lot of breathing exercises but you as a singer should focus on the ones which are specially designed for singers. If you are one of the lucky ones to have a vocal coach he or she will be able to teach you some simple breathing exercises. Beginner singers do not have their musical instrument which is their body fully developed and ready to sing. If you are a beginner singer then it is fairly normal that you run out of breath while singing.

What you need to understand that singing takes a lot of effort from your body, you will have to strengthen it in order to be able to sing without losing your breath. Most singers have a daily routine of a couple of minutes when they practice breathing exercises if you are not doing them every day than your progress as a singer will be fairly limited.

Bad habits can cause shortness of breath while singing

Far too often singers who teach themselves how to sing will pick up bad habits. Generally speaking, the main reason is that they learn from online tutorials, while it is nothing wrong with online tutorials, the main problem is that these tutorials are not personalized for you. Not every singing or breathing technique is suitable for you and if you follow a lot of online vocal coaches then you might get some contradictory statements at which point you will probably follow the advice of the one you trust the most.


It is extremely easy for beginner singers to pick up bad habits, especially when it comes to proper breathing while singing. The problem is that most beginner singers will only notice this once it is fairly late and then they will have to put enormous efforts into unlearning these bad habits which will actually take a longer time than to learn new habits. If you are a beginner singer and you often go out of breath while singing then my personal recommendation is to focus on breathing exercises and on songs which are easier to sing for a while till you either lose your bad habits or pick up new and good habits.

Long breaks from singing can cause shortness of breath while singing

Oftentimes people who take long breaks from singing find themselves almost not being able to sing due to shortness of breath. This is mainly due to muscle atrophy, which means that when you were singing you have strengthened some of your core singing muscles like the neck and breathing muscles. Once you stop using and developing them they will return to their natural state, there is no point for the body to maintain this extra muscle if you are not using it.

This process is very similar to being a bodybuilder, once they quit in just a couple of short months they will go back to their natural state and lose most of their gains. The body’s main goal is to be as efficient as possible, there is no reason why it should waste energy on muscles that are not used. If you have taken a break recently from singing then my recommendation is to read my article to find out the most common reasons why you are not able to sing properly Why can’t I sing anymore ( Quick and Easy Fix ).

A bad diet can cause shortness of breath while singing

One of the major causes of shortness of breath can be your diet, you are simply what you eat. If you eat junk food every day you can not expect your body to function at its normal capacity, as its main goal is to store all the excess fat. In addition, if you do not work out and have a sedentary lifestyle it can be fairly difficult for your body to adjust to singing, it is not impossible as there are a lot of overweight singers but it is not an ideal scenario if you want to become a successful singer.

There are certain foods that will, in fact, help you sing better, most people will recommend you some overpriced miracle food but there is no need for it. I have recently made a list of foods which you can easily find in any supermarket which will help you sing better, check it out ( Top 18 ) Foods to improve singing voice.

Smoking and alcohol will cause shortness of breath while singing

One of the reasons why you are running out of short breathe might be due to your vices. Smoking and drinking alcohol will not help you be a better singer, in fact, it will actually limit your progress. As singing is a fairly intensive workout for your body which needs as much air as possible if you smoke and drink alcohol than your lungs will not be able to fully expand and inhale as much oxygen as it needs.

To sing better you will need enough airflow and pressure to make the sounds which you will need for singing if you can not inhale enough air then you will run out of breath in no time. There are some singers who do smoke and find some work around this problem, although I do not recommend following the steps of these singers. As a beginner singer, you will be needing all the help you need, and if you sabotage your body it will be extremely difficult to become a singer.

Alcohol, on the other hand, can be equally if not even more destructive, once the alcohol is ingested it has to be broken down by your liver which is a fairly hard process for the liver. This process usually needs a lot of water and that is why most people get a hangover the second day. usually, they are fairly dehydrated, and if you put your body on a constant battle to eliminate alcohol then you will not be able to sing as the main goal of your body is to eliminate the alcohol and not to actually improve at singing.

Having anxiety can cause shortness of breath while singing

One of the possible reasons for shortness of breath during singing is having anxiety. This generally happens once you have to sing in front of somebody. Singers with anxiety tend to tense up a lot and they will not be able to inhale as much air as they need for singing. What usually tends to happen with singers who have anxiety is that their body enters a fight or flight response, this will pump excess blood into the muscles in order to be ready for anything.

The problem is that while the body is pumping blood to your muscles it will not have enough blood for the organs to function at maximum capacity. This, in turn, will make singers with anxiety breathe faster than usual, sometimes they can even hyperventilate.

Being nervous can cause shortness of breath while singing

Being nervous has almost the same symptoms as having anxiety, mainly your body tenses up a lot. Usually, this tends to happen at the worst times possible, like at an audition or in front of somebody you want to impress with your singing. While it is normal to be nervous to sing at an audition and the judges do know that as most people are not used to being put in the spotlight. However, if you are serious about singing then you have to learn how to calm yourself, my personal recommendation is to read my article as it will probably solve your nervousness problems Fear of singing in front of family ( How to get over it? ).

A strained throat can cause shortness of breath while singing

With a strained throat it will be almost impossible to sing, not only you can not inhale and exhale efficiently but your actual throat will start hurting while you are singing. Some singers sing even if they have a strained throat, I do not recommend any singer to do this as it will only complicate and worsen your strained throat even more. You could even end up with an infection, so if you have a strained throat you should give your throat a rest for at least a couple of days to heal itself.

If after a couple of days your throat still hurts then you probably need to visit your doctor or take a longer break. Far too often people jump back into singing before their throat is fully healed and this will make it a lot harder for your body to fight off the probable infection and to heal itself naturally.

Vocal cord disfunction can cause shortness of breath while singing

Vocal cord dysfunction is a very serious matter which could even halt your progress as a singer entirely. The problem with vocal cord dysfunction is that it is fairly hard to accurately detect and some people might not even know that they have it. There are a lot of causes of vocal cord disfunction anything from exercising to smoking and even acid reflux. Usually, vocal cord dysfunctions evolve from less serious health conditions from something like a common flue, as I mentioned above if you do not let your body heal you might expose yourself to more harm and at that point, singing will be the last thing on your mind.

Asthma can cause shortness of breath while singing

There are a lot of people with asthma and an ever-increasing number of children suffering from them. Although you can develop asthma even at a later stage in your life, the problem with asthma is that it will be extremely difficult to sing with it. There are some singers who somehow manage to sing even if they have asthma although if you thought that singing is hard then imagine how hard it can be without being able to breathe properly.

Allergies can cause shortness of breath while singing

Allergies that affect the lungs like allergies to pollen and to dust will hinder your ability to sing. The good news is that there are several treatments that cure different types of allergies, the problem is that these treatments do not work for everybody and they can be extremely costly. If you find yourself constantly going out of breath while you are singing and sneezing constantly then you should go to a doctor and find out if you have some type of allergy.

In conclusion

There could be a lot of reasons why you have shortness of breath while singing. My personal recommendation is to identify the probable cause as soon as possible, and the first thing you should do is to visit a doctor. If you have some undiagnosed health issue you might complicate your life even more if you force yourself to sing.