The way a singer’s voice sounds is a huge reflection of the way they breathe. Breathing is about much more than just survival for a singer. It is where the silkiness of their voice comes from. A singer has to take immense care of their vocal cords as well as pay due attention to their breathing technique.
A pleasant-sounding voice and healthy breathing go hand in hand. Many people breathe the wrong way on a daily basis yet they do not seem to realise it. The pitch and frequency of your voice largely depend on the power of your exhales. And so, an adequate inhale and a well-timed exhale can go a long way in strengthening the quality of your voice.
In fact, a lot of professional singing classes make their students learn proper breathing technique before they dive into the mainstream singing lessons.
Highlighted below are a few pointers about the correct way to breathe and exercises to master, so that your vocal cords feel at rest and you don’t run out of breath during a high note when you sing.
The correct way to breathe
Most people take shallow inhales because that requires minimum effort on their part and before they know it, it becomes a way of life. They are breathing wrong without even realising it. Though it may have no immediate ill effects, it will cost them a few years down the road.
Shallow inhales cause undue tension in the area of your neck muscles because you are not engaging your core. And that is precisely the area that needs to be relaxed the most while singing. Moreover, if your breath is not reaching down all the way to your core, you are more or less producing sound with whatever air is present in your throat. This can be very damaging and your voice will become hoarse in the long run.
Practice the way of breathing outlined below religiously till it becomes a habit:
- Form your hands in the way you would while eating a burger and wrap them around your back and ribcage. You should feel the front of your hands on your belly.
- Now take a deep breath and feel the air from a powerful inhale coming in and expanding your stomach and your sides. You should feel your back getting wider when you inhale.
Inhales are all about aerating your lungs and expanding your upper body so that the suction pulls in more and more air through negative pressure.
The muscles lining your rib cage are called intercostal muscles and they have a role to play here. What you are going to do is:
- Place your hands around your ribcage in the same fashion as described above.
- Now take in a breath like you got surprised and then collapse while exhaling.
- Don’t forget to be slow while collapsing during an exhale. You want to make sure the exhale is well under your control in the sense that you can manipulate the collapse of your lungs while you are exhaling gradually. This is breath management.
As a rule of thumb, one collapse should last anywhere between 35-45 seconds. A way you can monitor the timing of your collapse is you can make a hissing sound while letting the air out so you know how long your exhale lasts. It is quite alright if your timing is not that great initially. Keep practising until you are a pro at holding your breath in and controlling the amount of air you exhale.
Exercise for your diaphragm
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that divides your chest cavity from your abdominal cavity. Its job is to flatten and press down upon the abdomen to create more room for the incoming air in the event of an inhale. During an exhale, it boomerangs back to its original position.
Panting like a dog is a befitting exercise for your diaphragm and though it may sound ridiculous, it does wonders for your voice. Here is how to perform this exercise:
- Start with your hands placed squarely on your stomach. A key point to note here is to ensure that your abdominal muscles are relaxed and not clenched as some people assume.
- Begin panting like a dog and feel a push against your hands that you have placed on your stomach.
- Start slow and then speed it up until you almost sound like a dog who is dripping saliva. Sounds funny but it is effective.
- Make sure to engage your diaphragm but not your abdominals. You should feel a downward push of air in a relaxed motion.
The power of meditation
A good way to warm up your vocal cords before a gig or before you greet a large audience is to practice a few minutes of meditation which can serve the dual purpose of a vocal warm-up and calming your nerves. It is well known that meditation is therapeutic and requires an individual to pay special focus to the rate and technique of their breathing. This can double as a stress and anxiety reliever before you head out onto a stage as it will soothe and relax you. You will be free of all those wrinkles giving away your stress and feel much more tranquil which will reflect in your seamless performance.
Learn from a seasoned professional
Every singer worth their salt has received some or the other form of professional training. If you want to enter the big leagues and do not want any restrictions to hold you back, learn singing online. Studying all there is to know about singing and music from your favourite celebrity singer is no longer a dream. Join Monali Thakur’s singing class, only available on unlu where she covers everything from basic warm-ups to advanced tips and tricks about singing. Check out our website for more information on this specially designed online singing course.