One of the most common questions about learning how to sing is about breathing. When one talks about breathing technique, inevitably, we must talk about air. So the best way to ask the question is "How can I best use air control to sing better?".
Breathing is something which you have been doing ever since you were born. However, when you are singing, you will need more air than normal breathing for your body’s oxygen needs.
Use Air for Good Breath Control and Correct Singing Breathing Technique
The sound you produce when you sing is an air phenomenon. Air vibration is how your ear receives sound. Although it is true that your ears can pick up a little bit of sound through the bones of the head, nearly all sound is transmitted via air.
Sound is very simply a rapid series of pressure changes in air. This is why sound is sometimes referred to as "waves." To make the concept easier to understand, simply imagine a pebble dropped into a pond and what do you see? A series of water waves begin moving out in all directions isn’t it?
Sound waves work in a similarly way. But instead of ridges and valleys, sound waves are made of bands of high air pressure, separated by bands of low air pressure.
Just like those little ripples of water waves, sound waves travel too, but much faster just like they say, at the speed of sound. When the sound waves are closer together, the pitch is higher. In fact pitch is measured by the frequency of those little waves going by.
Sound waves are little traveling lines of higher-then-lower-then- higher-than-normal air pressure. The greater the difference between a sound wave's low and high pressure areas, the louder the sound.
The pebble mentioned earlier starts the water ripples, but how do those little high-pressure/low-pressure air waves start? To start the sound waves, something has to move back and forth very rapidly against the air to make these waves.
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Let us take a playing a note on a guitar string as an example. When someone plucks on a guitar string, you can visually see the guitar string vibrating. That forward and backward motion of the vibrating string is causing the air right next to the string to get squashed against the air around it, then sucked away from the air around it...back and forth, over and over again.
That activity sets these sound waves in motion. The waves travel and eventually hit your ear drum. The pressure changes cause your ear drums to move in and out rapidly and are sending signals to your brain.
Guitar strings produce sounds by moving against the air. Your singing voice produces sound by building and releasing air pressure in tiny bursts from a closed system that is your lungs.
Singing Breath Control
Imagine your lungs as a double-chambered sack of air that can be pressurized by muscles of the abdomen or your core muscles. Your core muscles are your singing support system very much like the accordion.
At the top of that sack of air is a tiny relief valve that can be controlled in such a way as to release a rapid succession of very tiny air bursts. The valve is formed by your vocal cords coming together, closing the air sack and precisely controlling how the air comes out.
These tiny air bursts in rapid succession initiate the sound waves that make your vocal sound. The tighter those tiny vocal cord muscles, the more rapid the air bursts. The more rapid those pressure bursts occur, the higher the vocal pitch.
The only reason that you able to do it is because you were designed to do so. From the moment you took your first breath, you started making strong, clear vocal sounds as if you'd been rehearsing for years! This happened even without a single singing lesson in correct breathing technique.
There are 2 main ways you make those vocal sound waves louder or softer. First is by using more air. You apply more air pressure from the abdomen (diaphragm) as you produce the tone. This is the way you are most familiar with as it is the way how you yell at your siblings.
The second way is by cheating. There is a way to get much more volume without any more effort and this method is called "formant." This is when you shape your throat and mouth so that they cause the little waves that come from your vocal cords to build upon themselves before they get pass your lips.
Because everyone’s vocal tract is shaped uniquely, your formant is found through a bit of experimentation and vocal exercises. You will know once you have found it because your singing voice will soar. Your voice will expand dramatically, but without adding any more air pressure.
Correct breathing technique for good voice control
So what is the correct breathing technique to produce these sounds? Well, if you allow your tummy to move outward when you take in your breath, you will have breathed correctly. Just think to yourself that you are filling your tummy with air rather than your chest. Simple? You bet.
Then why is it that so many singers are confused with correct breathing techniques? It is because the correct way to breathe air when singing can only be perfected by good vocal exercises.