“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” - Plato

Singing is a lot of fun and great for your self-esteem. Finding your voice allows you to express yourself but if you want to sing well, you’ll need to learn some breathing techniques.

Without breathing, singing is complicated.

So how can you learn to breathe correctly when you sing?

Here are some tips to help your vocal performance through breath control.

Use Your Diaphragm to Improve Your Breathing

Singing is all about breathing. If you don’t breathe correctly, you’ll struggle to carry a tune. Many singers make the mistake of thinking they have to strain their vocal cords to sing.

What is the diaphragm for?
The way you breathe when you sing is different from how you normally breathe. (Source: lincerta)

By using your diaphragm when you sing, you can avoid damaging your vocal cords by controlling the airflow from your lungs. The sound will be better and you won’t need to strain your voice.

The diaphragm is a hugely important muscle when it comes to singing. It’s located at the base of the thoracic cavity and it contracts when you inhale and relaxes when you exhale.

You should make sure that you know where the diaphragm is located and how to use it when you sing.

Find out more about diaphragmatic breathing.

Regularly Do Breathing Exercises

There’s nothing better than regular breathing exercises for improving your breath control. This is true even if you’re not singing as the exercises will form good habits as well as strengthen the diaphragm.

This is particularly true of the “milkshake” exercise. To do this, you need to breathe through a straw while keeping your shoulders and chest straight. You should feel your body open as you breathe in. You can also breathe like a small dog to work on your breath control.

Let's not forget the bubbles exercise, either. Fill a glass with water and use a drinking straw to blow bubbles. As you breathe out and blow bubbles, vibrate your vocal cords to make a sound and then keep breathing without making a sound. The airflow should be consistent throughout. The bubbles in the water should allow you to better see the air.

This last exercise allows you to work on your voice box and your vocal cords. Generally, all these exercises will help you to strengthen your diaphragm.

To check your progress, breathe in deeply, then count as you breathe out. You’ll notice that the time you can do this will increase as you practise.

Find out more about how diaphragmatic breathing can improve your singing.

Adopt the Right Posture to Sing Better

Much like the correct use of your diaphragm, you also need to adopt the right posture when you sing. Try breathing deeply while hunched over and then try it again while standing up straight. You’ll see that the right posture allows you to control the airflow better and for longer.

Your back needs to be straight and your shoulders back. The torso needs to be sticking out but not in an exaggerated way. Ideally, you want to be standing up but you can also sing while seated. When you stand up, your body should be perfectly aligned from head to toe. It’s also easier to remain in this position whilst standing. As you practise singing, this position will become more natural to you.

Learn more about the best resources for diaphragmatic breathing.

Open Your Throat When You Sing

You can’t circulate air through your respiratory system with your mouth closed so the more open your mouth, the more freely the air will circulate. Every singer needs to open their mouth as much as possible when they sing.

This might look a bit like yawning at first. The mouth needs to be as open as possible while also relaxed but you don’t want to overdo it and strain the muscles.

How can you improve your singing?
Your voice will be more powerful and carry farther if you use diaphragmatic breathing. (Source: StockSnap)

To help you sing with your mouth and throat open, practise your vocalisations while imagining there’s a ball stuck in your throat. You can do this for all your breathing exercises (without an actual ball, of course!).

Work on Passing Between Your Two Voices

There are a few singing techniques that are quite challenging. Passing between your head and your chest voice is probably one of the most complicated techniques. To do this smoothly, you have to master your breathing.

This is why it’s essential that you practise passing between the two and breathing correctly as you do it. You need to focus on your diaphragm and work on your intervals as you do. Generally, you’ll do this during your warm-up exercises.

Find out more about the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing.

Learn to Articulate to Control Your Breathing

Much like singing with your mouth wide open, articulating will help you to control the airflow as you sing. The words need to be clear when you sing.

To practise, you should read the lyrics aloud without singing them. Exaggerate the pronunciation of all the words and get the muscles in your mouth working. This is particularly useful when you’re learning a song, too as it’ll help you remember the words.

Pay attention to the consonants as these are often the first to be cut out when we sing. That doesn’t mean that you have to stress each consonant but similarly, you don’t want your words to be garbled.

Learn to Relax

To sing well, you need to relax. Any singing teacher worth their salt will tell you that. You need to relax to rest your voice but it's also important during performances.

Stressed singers can't sing as well since their muscles are tense. They'll also struggle to hold a good posture. Similarly, their breath will be shorter. Put simply, you can’t sing well in the wrong conditions.

What are the benefits of breathing exercises?
Breathing exercises can improve your breath control when you sing but they're also good for relaxation. (Source: Pexels)

Fortunately, breathing exercises can also help you to relax. The diaphragm can be used to control stress. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and then breathe out gently. This technique is often used to calm down children, too.

Once you’ve calmed down, it’ll be easier to control your airflow. There are plenty of good ways to relax. Don’t hesitate to listen to some relaxing music from Mozart, Bach, or Beethoven if that’s what works for you.

Use the Air Flow Effectively when You Sing

You need to carefully control the flow of air when you’re singing even though this can seem quite unnatural when you do it. Breathing is a process we often do without thinking about so it can feel quite physically and mentally taxing to control your breathing. However, controlling your breathing will allow you to save your breath for the right moments.

Which are the best breathing exercises?
For one of the simplest breathing exercises, you just need a glass of water and a drinking straw. (Source: Alexas_Fotos)

Here’s a quick exercise that can help you. Start by breathing in for 4 seconds, then breathe out for 4 while pronouncing the letter “s”. Now try this again but breathe out for 10 seconds. Bit by bit, increase the amount of time you spend breathing out.

You’ll get used to exhaling for longer and longer periods.

Warm-up Your Voice

This might seem obvious, but one of the first things you should do before singing is warm up by running through some scales, for example. Warming up your voice will help you tune your voice and keep you in time.

What happens if you’re out of time?

Things can quickly start going wrong if you’re out of time. You’ll then have you try and find your breath out of time rather than during rests.

Once you’ve warmed up your voice, make the most of some breathing exercises to make sure you’re ready for anything. The warm-ups will also help you to relax.

Now you’re ready to sing at the top of your voice!

If you need help mastering diaphragmatic breathing, there are plenty of great singing tutors on Superprof who are ready to help you. You can enjoy face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, or even group tutorials. Each type of tutorial has its pros and cons so carefully consider which is right for you.

Fortunately, a lot of the tutors on Superprof also offer the first hour of tuition for free so you can try out various potential tutors to make sure you've picked the right one. While you probably won't get a lesson in the traditional sense during the first hour, it's still a good opportunity to discuss what your learning objectives are, how you like to learn, and see how your tutor can help you.

Make sure you get along, too, as you may be spending a lot of time with your singing tutor!

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.