How to develop proper breath control for singing - this question comes from Laura:
Q: "I’m a musical theater singer and my current biggest challenge is mastering breath control. I know how to breathe properly for singing, but I can't seem to find exercises that improve my breath control. I’ve tried breathing in and breathing out on a hiss, but I don't know if it is helping."
When it comes to breath control for singing the best way to improve it is through actual singing practice rather than breathing exercises such as the infamous "sustained sss".
Breath control for singing is developed by learning how to pace where you give your energy on a phrase - which is why you need to practice this in singing. Just doing a sustained "sss" will not teach you how to use it in singing.
The louder and higher you sing the more you will feel a "push" from the lower abdomen, the sides (love handles) in particular if you do it right.
If you push too hard and give all your power on the lower notes or sing too loudly on the lower notes, you'll have nothing to give on the top notes - you'll get caught and strain. So you learn how to pace yourself and give a little energy on the lower parts and then give more on the higher parts.
Once you can do it on one line, you need to learn how to do it on 2 lines, then 3 - a whole verse, then verse chorus, etc. then the entire song in one take.
Learning how to completely relax your body in-between lines will help you take your breath faster so you can set up for the next line easier too. It will help prevent you from taking shallow gasps of air with neck tension.
Articulating the vowels and consonants more efficiently will also play a big role in improving your breath control. If you hit consonants too hard you’ll choke on them and strain. You also need to learn how to use the vowels without blasting too much air through them. If your vowels are shading in the right direction as you go higher you'll feel like you can lean into them without wasting a ton of air.
You want to be able to articulate without overusing the air. In your lower range you'll be using more air but as you sing higher you'll feel like you need less air, especially the really high notes, they require very little air but more of a push from the belly.
Try to eliminate over-breathing, over-tanking on air and make sure you relax the body and abs in-between each song phrase.
If you overbreathe your neck and throat will start tightening up as you sing and you'll start pushing air and blasting air for notes. If you keep the abs too tight in-between phrases, you’ll start to strain from the throat as you sing.
To get this working you’ll need to approach singing and speaking more slowly and calmly. Everyone is so agitated and erratic nowadays. This type of energy will hinder you with singing.
If you can do this, you will be preparing your voice to efficiently to use and control the air properly.
If you need help learning this then I recommend scheduling a one-on-one Skype lesson with me or get your hands on my program.
If you'd like to ask a question about your individual singing struggles then sign up below and email me.
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