Singing excellence rests on the foundation of superb breath control. Breathing exercises for singing provide the best way to learn efficient breathing techniques that utilize the diaphragm. Explore the important role of breathing exercises in the improvement of vocal skills.
Most endeavors, whether sports, arts, or other activities, start with a basic principle. When you study golf, you have to learn the correct stance and the right way to hold the club. If you want to master cooking, you must develop skills with a chef's knife. If you want to improve your singing, you need to develop excellent breath control. Utilizing breathing exercises for singing typically provides the best route to acquire this skill.
When you learn how to control the amount of air you exhale and how fast you release your breath, you typically improve the quality of your voice. Most people tend to take shallow breaths, which uses only the top half of the lungs. A negative result of shallow breathing is excess air pressure on the vocal cords. When you are singing, you need to use the full capacity of your lungs. You will have more air in reserve, and the muscles around the diaphragm and abdomen can help take better control as you let out the air in your lungs and sing your notes.
How To Develop Good Breath Control
The secret to great breath control is a simple technique that is amazingly difficult to master. You need to inhale using your diaphragm—not your chest—to fill your lungs completely and exhale slowly. You should recognize how this proper breathing feels, develop the right practices slowly, and consistently and repeat them constantly until they become second nature.
Breathing exercises help develop breath control as you sing. Your notes should maintain a consistent tone filled with a quality sound so you can regulate the dynamics of your song.
Build Your Routine
Your breathing exercise schedule should include these elements:
Stress and its resultant tension in the body is the enemy of relaxed, correct breathing. Therefore, the first few minutes of your breathing exercise routine should aim at ridding your body of stress and tension. Only then can you successfully complete proper breathing practices and techniques.
Breathing exercises for singing are a progression, and not everyone agrees on the best plan to implement them. Start out with a relaxation exercise and then do two or three basic breathing exercises, practicing at least one on the floor at first. Repeat them several times, take a five-minute break, and dot them once more. Conclude your exercise session by singing a simple, well-loved song. Don't worry about the results—just sing the song for fun, but be conscious of your breathing.
Exercises You Should Include
These exercises provide a well-rounded workout, which you can eventually tweak to your own needs. Remember that all breathing exercises have the goal to develop proper form and increase breath control. The only "magic" in breathing exercises for singing comes from using them regularly and faithfully until they become automatic.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Every breathing practice session should begin with a favorite stress reduction or relaxation method. You can sit in a comfortable chair for this approach, which begins at the top of your body. Tense all the muscles in your head and face—forehead, eyes and jaw. Now gradually unclench and relax each set of muscles until they are slack. Next, tighten your neck, shoulders, arms and hand muscles. Gradually relax these muscles from your neck to the tips of your fingers. Your arms should hang loosely at your side. Now do the same thing with your chest, stomach, back and hip muscles. Continue with your legs, feet, knees and toes. Tense each set of muscles, then gradually let them go limp. When you have completely relaxed your whole body, sit quietly for a few minutes. Now you are ready to work on your breathing.
Have you ever watched a baby sleeping on its back? Babies naturally use their diaphragms to breath, and their stomachs rise and fall with each breath. Lie down on your back, using the carpet or an exercise mat. Keep your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lightly lay your hands on your stomach with the tips of your fingers aimed at your navel. Inhale deeply, counting to four. You should see and feel your hands rising. Let your breath out slowly for a count of six, hands slowly lowering as your stomach returns to its original position. If you have trouble seeing and feeling the rise and fall of your stomach as you repeat this ten times, place a magazine or light folder on your stomach to emphasize the motion. Do not use anything as heavy as a book since weighty objects may be harmful to your body.
This is also a good exercise to practice before you hop out of bed in the morning or drift off to sleep at night.
When starting out, utilizing the power of gravity to help you breathe from the diaphragm often makes a lot of sense. Take a position on your hands and knees. As you deeply inhale to the count of four, let your stomach expand toward the floor. Now slowly let your breath out for six counts as your stomach slowly returns to its original position. Do this five times. If you have tender knees, you can get the same effect by standing and slumping way over with your hands hanging not quite to your feet.
Milk Jug Breathing
Now that you are getting a good feel for breathing from the diaphragm, you're ready to practice breathing in a standing position, which is the normal stance for singing. This is also a good time to emphasize the importance of maintaining good posture for breath control as you sing. You can't do it well if you don't stand up straight.
Take two milk or other plastic jugs, rinse them out and fill to the top with water. Make sure to screw the caps on tightly. With your posture straight, take one jug in each hand and slowly lift them while inhaling from your diaphragm for a count of four. Lower the jugs as you exhale for five counts. Repeat five times. This exercise will keep your shoulders from rising as you breathe, and your breath will move lower.
Arm Lift Breathing
The jug exercise above helps you visually force your breath low, but you can also achieve this without using weights. Start in a straight stance with your arms at your side. As you take a deep breath, raise your arms straight up to your shoulders, keeping them level and swinging them straight out in front of you. Exhale slowly as you return your arms the same way to their original position. Repeat ten times.
This simple exercise generally proves effective by slowing down the breathing rate and making it naturally easier to use the diaphragm. All you do is hold one nostril closed at a time so no air comes in that side. Breathe deeply through your nose and exhale slowly. Cover the other side and repeat. Do this set ten times.
If you feel your breathing is more "stuffy" on one side or the other, this should actually aid your diaphragm use.
This exercise provides another way to slow down breathing and force the air lower into your lungs. You can use a narrow straw or glass tubing. If you are adept at mental imaging, you can just purse your lips and imagine you are using a straw. Inhale deeply through the straw, expanding your stomach while you count to four, and then exhale slowly, still using the straw, for a count of six until your stomach is back to its original position. Repeat ten times.
Since counting becomes tiresome after a while, this exercise helps you pattern your breathing in a novel way. Stand straight, inhale using your diaphragm for A, B, C and D. Hold your breath for E, F, G and H. Exhale on I, J, K and L. Wait for M, N, O and P and then inhale again. Go over the routine three more times.
It can't be emphasized too often that staying aware of your breathing and practicing exercises throughout the day is the key to mastering breath control. Take advantage of any break to check your breathing and practice briefly. You can use break times at work, commercials when watching TV and a quick session before you check phone messages or social media. Keep practicing periodically every day.
Don't forget that any exercise that strengthens muscles, especially core muscles, and builds stamina will also improve your breathing capacity. Incorporate all your breathing exercises for singing into your daily routine until they become the norm for you. Once you've achieved optimum breath control, you can pursue further vocal improvements.