Breath Control Exercises For Singers

Breath control exercises are essential for singers looking to improve their technique. Every singer needs to practice our top exercises and techniques for breath control if they want to be the best that they can be. Unfortunately, most singers don’t realise just how important controlling your breathing is.

All breath control exercises require you to breathe from your diaphragm. Taking deep breaths without raising your chest and shoulders helps you do this and you also need to breathe slowly. This improves your breathing technique and capacity to hit high notes.

Great breath control is very important for developing your vocal range and also your rapping skills. As hip-hop becomes more popular in pop music, many top singers such as Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande are incorporating rapping into their music. While it won’t happen overnight, we’ll cover how breathing exercises can help you hit high notes and rap.

Breath control exercise instructions

#1 Loosen up your muscles

Giving your face, neck and chest a good stretch. You need your muscles to be loose and relaxed before you can breathe correctly and hit high notes. Have a good yawn while you’re at it and keep your muscles warm. This will help your breathing technique, which we will get on to next.

#2 Breathe from your diaphragm

Locate your diaphragm above your stomach and pull your breath from here. Breathing from your diaphragm is the best way for you to be breathing as a singer.  High notes typically require more breath and power and your diaphragm is the best source for it.

Your breathing exercises should start much lower down with your stomach & diaphragm muscles expanding like bellows. If your stomach goes in when you breathe in, you’re doing it the wrong way round!

#3 Keep your shoulders down

Relax your shoulders and keep them back as you breathe. When you take a deep breath, it can be tempting to raise up your body and this is especially the case with your shoulders. This will make it more difficult to breathe from your diaphragm so if you want those high notes then keep them down.

Make sure your shoulders are not rising when you take a breath. If they are this indicates shallow breathing & will result in too much air pressure onto your vocal cords. You’ll likely get an initial blast of volume followed by very little else as your breath and therefore your voice quickly runs out. The cycle will then continue and become very hard work.

#4 Breathe in deeply

Keep your shoulders down and take a huge breath. Now that you’re breathing through your diaphragm, take in as much as you possibly can. Your lung capacity should improve the more you practice so try measuring how long you can breathe in for to see if you get better.

#5 Breathe out slowly

Let your breath out slowly. Letting all your breath out in one go won’t help you control it and help train your diaphragm to stay in control of your breathing. This will stop you from letting all of your air out when you try and hit high notes.

breath control exercise

#6 Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water. This is important not only for singing but for your general day to day life. Whether your singing or talking, you are likely to be using your larynx and vocal cords a lot during any given day. The more you use it, the more hydration you’ll need. Just make sure you aren’t drinking cold water as this can make your larynx tenser.

#7 Warm-up your vocal cords

Practice warm-ups that push your range. Breathing exercises are incredibly important for warming up but you need to practice singing scales to understand where your range is at. Once you know how high you can sing, make sure you practice making those high notes comfortable before pushing yourself to go higher.

Singing Warm Ups

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#8 Try breathing exercises while lying down

Lie on the floor, relax and breathe normally. You should notice as you breathe in your stomach and rib cage rise (inflate) and as you breathe out they get smaller again (deflate).

breath control technique:

#9 Do shorter breathing exercises

Practice doing short mini laughs with a breath in between. For example, “Ha” breathe “Ha” breathe “Ha”. On every “Ha” make sure the stomach is going in and on the breath going back out. This is especially good for rappers who won’t have the time to take longer breaths while performing.

#10 Slow it down

Practice songs in slow motion. This will help to develop control with your air pressure & flow. While carrying out this breath control technique, think of squeezing a tube of toothpaste from the bottom up to keep that steady flow.

If you practice more slowly, it will prevent you from rushing your words to get them out on your breath. This can affect the timing of your singing and the audience will notice this. They will also be able to tell if you’re singing too quickly so try practising to a metronome at a slower bpm.

#11 Physical exercise

Do some exercise to increase your stamina and lung capacity. We aren’t talking scales but something that gets your heart going like running. Also, if your aim is to be playing massive sets on big stages then it is going to require a high level of fitness. A great example is Anthony Kiedis from Red Hot Chili Peppers. He is a very keen runner and goes running before every show he plays.

For a more in-depth look at breath control exercises see Master Your Voice with these Simple Breathing Exercises!

What is breath control?

Breath control is about using your diaphragm to fill your lungs with air and then gradually release it. Breath control exercises help you improve your lung capacity and power high notes without putting too much breath into one note.

Breath control high notes

Why is breath control important for singing?

Singing is essentially the sound made by the vibrations of your vocal cords. These vibrations are caused not only by the muscles but also by the air that moves through them. The less air you have, the more strain you end up putting on your muscles to create the sound.

This could potentially damage your voice and isn’t sustainable for singers in the long term. This is especially true for anyone singing high notes. We naturally tend to use more air with high notes so if you don’t breath properly, the high notes will put even more strain on your voice. Focusing on your breathing will make sure that you have the capacity for high notes and maintain a healthy voice.

Why do singers need to perform breathing exercises?

As a singer, maintaining the health and accuracy of your voice is paramount. The following breath control exercises can help you to keep your voice both strong and healthy.

You’ll need breathing exercises to for a good warm-up and for whenever you perform. If you lose your breath and stop singing, you risk ruining your reputation. Many people with breathing problems use voice lessons as a way of improving the issue, but there are some breathing exercises and techniques which you can try yourself at home.

Hit high note breath exercise

Breathing exercises for singing

One of the most important parts of learning how to sing is learning how to breathe correctly. Breathing exercises are very important to singers as they help improve breath control and can help keep your voice strong.

Many breathing issues that singers encounter, such as running out of breath before the end of phrases, are often down to the internal muscles (the vocal cords & larynx) not being used correctly. However, it is really important to regularly do breathing exercises as a singer.

diction for singers

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Breath control for rapping

Unlike hitting high notes, which could use one breath on a single word or run, rapping requires an ability to get many words out on one breath. Whilst the same fundamentals of breathing with your diaphragm is required, you also need to focus more on diction and stamina. You could end up rapping more words in a single verse than other singers do in a whole EP and this will require a lot of breath.

If you’ve written lyrics for rapping then you need to stay on top of when you’re going to breathe. If you try writing breaths into your lyrics then this will help you power your words and maintain your timing.

breath control for rappers

Do you need to perform breath control exercises for singers daily?

Not necessarily! Many singers fall into the trap that they must do endless breath control exercises in order to sing well but this shouldn’t be the case.

Many of the breathing issues that singers encounter, such as running out of breath before the end of phrases, are more often down to the internal muscles (the vocal cords & larynx) being made to function incorrectly.

It’s also affected by how the airflow is distributed rather than incorrect breathing function.

It is however really important to get the basics right.

For more breath control techniques see:
Breathing techniques for singers

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How do you breathe when singing high notes

Singing high notes can be an ultimate display of your range and vocal ability. However, attempting to hit these notes can often be the downfall of a singer. Missing the note can be painful to hear and it can also be a damaging strain on a singer’s voice as well.

Whether you’re using your chest voice or falsetto, breath control is incredibly important. More specifically, it’s not how much you breath, but how you breathe that will help you hit high notes.

High notes in chest voice

Singing high notes with your chest voice is probably the most powerful way to hit the higher notes. This requires a lot more focus on breathing with your diaphragm and keeping your shoulders back and low. This is because you don’t want to move up into your head voice or falsetto so you have to have strong control of your diaphragm.

High notes in falsetto

An alternative way to hit high notes is to use falsetto. This mainly applies to male singers that are looking to singer higher than the range of their chest or mixed head voice. Falsetto requires a significant amount of breath control training because it requires more air. It can also be more strain on your vocal cords so keep practising your breathing exercises to help prevent this.

Breathing exercises for stress

Let’s be honest, trying to make a career in the music industry can be pretty stressful. Even getting up on stage can bring a lot of anxiety for many performers. Breathing exercises are highly recommended for reducing stress and anxiety so there are plenty of benefits beyond singing.

If you find yourself getting nervous or stressed before a show, take 2 or 3 minutes to find a quiet spot and breathe. Not only will it help your voice for singing but it should help calm your nerves.

Let us know about your best tips and breathing exercises for singers in the comments below


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