Introduction to Breath Control
Arguably the most vital aspect of singing well is breath control. Without it, vocal cords become too involved, singers can’t hold notes for long, and a myriad of other problems arise. Thankfully, a long list of helpful breath-control exercises have been invented and developed to further improve singers’ control over their breathing.
Singing with the Diaphragm
The first step in proper breathing is the inhalation. To start, singers should inhale from their diaphragms, which is basically the stomach. As they inhale, they should feel their stomachs expand as it fills with air—kind of a bloated feeling. As the inhalation continues, the ribcage should expand, followed by the lungs. Most of the breath should be contained with the diaphragm, however.
With the diaphragm, ribs, and lungs expanded and filled with air, tighten the abdomen walls, and begin letting the air out as slowly as possible. Singers should place the palm of their hands a few inches from their lips to feel the amount of air exiting their mouths. Only a slight brush should be evident, otherwise, singers are releasing the air too quickly.
The trick is to use the smallest amount of air possible. Even with a full inhalation, the air should exist slowly and smoothly.
Another way to get a sense of how much and how fast the air is exiting the mouth is to make an “ssss” sound by singers placing their tongues against the back of their teeth and attempting to imitate a snake. This will give an audio account of breath control.
The body must be fully relaxed, especially in the throat and neck, to achieve optimum singing results. Relaxation can be achieved through various breathing exercises.
One involves lying flat on the floor with the knees bent and palms face down. Inhale again from the diaphgram and feel the stomach, ribs, and lungs expand as they fill with air. To determine if one is breathing properly, one can feel his back expand and push against the floor as he inhales. Once the entire breath is taken, hold it for ten seconds, and then slowly exhale for another ten seconds.
Repeat this exercise ten times. Six times on the floor, because that’s when people are the most relaxed, twice sitting in a chair, and twice more standing up. By the end, one should be thoroughly relaxed and prepared to sing.
Apart from providing relaxation, it will also further develop breath control.
The beauty of breath control exercises is that they can be conducted anywhere, at any time. Even standing in the aisle at Walmart, one can practice breath control by inhaling as deeply as possible, and then exhaling as slowly as possible. The goal should be somewhere around 30 seconds, but one should not be surprised if only 15 or 20 seconds is possible in the initial practice sessions.