Hey there, Smule fam!
Ever wonder why singing some of your favorite songs leaves you huffing and puffing? If so, you’re not alone. Practicing techniques to improve your breath placement will not only increase your stamina as a singer, but it’ll also help you deliver songs more artistically once your breath control starts improving.
So if you’ve been researching breath control techniques for singers or simply how to improve your singing voice, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn more on our three favorite techniques for improving breath control when singing.
1) Start from the Diaphragm
If you’ve ever considered taking vocal lessons, you’ve most likely heard of the diaphragm. This thick, dome-shaped muscle sits right beneath your lungs and powers your breathing in a rhythmic, controlled manner. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and flattens so that your chest can expand with air. When you exhale, your diaphragm expands and pushes the air out of your lungs.
Think of singing as a “ground-up” venture–you want your breath and muscular support to start from the pit of your stomach and move upwards. Don’t think this changes when you sing higher notes in your head voice, either. Hitting those clear high notes has everything to do with how you build the foundation in your diaphragm to support them, and not where the breath starts, necessarily.
So how do you strengthen your diaphragm for singing?
Personally, we’re fans of the 4-6-8 rule. Breathe in deeply for four seconds, hold your breath for six seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Make sure to breathe in from your navel and fill your chest with lungs from the bottom up. Once you feel the top of your lungs have filled, hold your breath as calmly and still as possible. Make sure to exhale in a slow, even, and controlled manner as well. Repeat this eight times in a row.
2) Relax Your Posture
Like we’ve discussed in some of our earlier vocal technique blogs, good posture is important for singing properly. With your chin level to the floor, shoulders rolled back, chest out, hips forward, knees slightly bent, and one foot in front of the other, you’ll be in the ideal position for clear, effortless singing.
It can be tempting to tense up your shoulders or poke your chin out while reaching for those high notes. However, singing from these tense positions will significantly reduce your breath control and may even lead to vocal strain.
One of our favorite techniques for combatting this tension is to practice vocal exercises while balancing a hardcover book on your head. As old-fashioned as it sounds, it will force you to keep your chin parallel to the floor and your shoulders rolled back. Just make sure to keep a mirror handy so you can watch that book!
3) Articulate Those Words
Enunciation and breath placement go hand in hand–this is why it’s so important to start all singing from your diaphragm. Singing from your diaphragm gives you more breath to work with, which in turn will help you sing your words more clearly and beautifully.
But a lot of good enunciation comes from simple muscle memory, too. To illustrate this, think of one of your favorite go-to karaoke songs; chances are, you sing the words pretty well if you’ve sung it a couple dozen times. Now think about a song you haven’t really sung much yet and give a verse or two a whirl. Can you hear the difference in enunciation? If you’re like most vocalists out there, the two songs probably sound very distinct.
As you may have guessed, the best way to really get the phrasing and enunciation of a song down is to, well, sing the song a bunch of times.
But rest assured that there are some handy exercises to help your enunciation sound better overall. We love the vowel exercise; if you’re thinking of singing ‘A-E-I-O-U,’ you’re on the right track! However, you can take things up a notch by throwing different letters in front of each vowel. For example, instead of ‘A-E-I-O-U,’ you can sing ‘may-me-my-moe-moo,’ ‘say-see-sigh-so-sue,’ ‘lay-lee-lie-low-loo,’ and so on.
For this exercise, you’ll be singing a triad chord. The ‘A’ and ‘U’ sounds are always on the tonic, the ‘E’ and ‘O’ sounds are always on the middle note of the triad, and the ‘I’ sound is always the dominant note of the chord. That means that if you’re starting out this exercise in the key of C, you’ll sing ‘A’ and ‘U’ on C, ‘E’ and ‘O’ on E, and ‘I’ on G. You can move up the scale quite easily following this formula.
One last thing: don’t forget to hold out the last note of each round a little longer than the rest!
Huff and Puff No More
Practicing your breath control can be an intimidating venture at first, especially if you aren’t sure where to begin. Hopefully, these three beginner techniques can help you strengthen your diaphragm for improved breath control and expert enunciation. Thanks again for reading and keep checking back for more handy vocal exercises in our How to Sing Better series!