Your voice is like any other instrument -- even if you have plenty of natural talent, practice is essential to developing better technique and greater power. But if you're new to singing or new to regular practice, it can be hard to find the best breathing exercises for singing to do on a daily basis. In this article, we've gathered some great exercises for you to incorporate into your routine.
Our Picks For The Best Breathing Exercises
Exercise 1: Breathing From The Diaphragm
Your diaphragm is a band of muscle that sits below the heart, lungs, and rib cage. It contracts continually as you breathe.
This first exercise focuses primarily on developing awareness of breathing from your diaphragm. To do this exercise, stand up with good posture and rest your hand over your belly button. Breathe in slowly, focusing on the sensation of your stomach moving out (as opposed to upwards). It may help to also picture your diaphragm flattening as you breathe in. When you exhale, the diaphragm becomes a dome shape, but as you inhale, it becomes flatter. As you breathe in, make sure you aren't using movement in your chest and shoulders -- try to focus purely on using your diaphragm. You can look in a mirror to make sure your stomach moves out as opposed to your shoulders moving up.
After you inhale, exhale slowly, being sure to focus on the movement of your diaphragm. It's a good idea to do this inhale and exhale 10 to 15 times in a row. Awareness of your breathing is the first step toward better breath control, and better breath control can really take your singing voice to the next level.
The point of learning to breathe from the diaphragm is to be able to master the ability to sing from the diaphragm. Using diaphragmatic breathing as you sing is commonly called breath support, and it can give you better sustain and better vocal control. To learn about singing from the diaphragm, check out this useful video lesson.
If you want some more guidance in developing breath control and expanding your vocal range, an online course focusing on vocal techniques and voice development may help. Many singers, including those with a lot of natural talent, have benefited from some level of vocal instruction. We think that 30 Day Singer is an outstanding course to take.
It takes you through a month-long course that will improve your technique and tone and even help you hit high notes. 30 Day Singer starts out with the right singing posture and breathing exercises. Then it helps you cultivate better vocal power, and after that, it helps you build enough confidence to perform. The course has instructors from diverse backgrounds -- some have been educated at Julliard, and others have done particularly well on The Voice.
Exercise 2: The Hissing Exercise
While exercise 1 above is meant to help you develop proper breathing techniques, this second exercise has a more direct application to developing your sound as a singer. It's called the hissing exercise because of the distinct low hissing sound it makes.
To start, make sure you're relaxed -- whether that means you're sitting down, standing up, or lying down. Take a good breath to fill your lungs while staying mindful of your diaphragm. Then, clench your teeth together and slowly and steadily release air, using your tongue to regulate it as needed. You should hear a quiet but steady hissing sound. Make sure to keep the intensity constant. This will help you practice breath control while using your abdominal muscles to release air. When you do it, you should be able to feel a slight sensation in your belly as you slowly release air.
This type of exercise is especially useful when you need to sing with a lower voice. And because it conditions your abdominal muscles, this is one of the breathing techniques that's good to practice daily. If you want to see a helpful walkthrough, check out this video lesson from Berklee Online.
Exercise 3: Snatched Breathing Technique
The point of most vocal exercises for breathing is to allow your diaphragm to support your breath as you sing. They also are designed to help you make full use of your lung capacity.
This exercise, known as snatched breathing, is designed to help you in a specific situation. When you're singing an up-tempo song, you can't always breathe deeply enough to fill your full lung capacity with just one breath.
With songs like this, you need to use something called incremental breathing. This is effectively taking partial breaths when you can to ensure that you have enough air to support your voice with your diaphragm.
Snatched breathing can help you master the art of incremental breathing. To do it, begin inhaling slowly. Within a couple of seconds, pause the inhale for half a second and then continue. Make sure you pause a few times before reaching full lung capacity.
Once you've mastered snatch breaths while inhaling, you can also practice them exhaling while singing. This exercise is a little harder than snatch breaths on the inhale, so make sure you've mastered them while inhaling first. If you want to see what snatch breaths on an exhale look like, check out this helpful video. As with most breathing exercises, it's good to do one daily if you can. The advantage of hissing exercises is that they don't generate much noise, so you can do them just about anywhere.
If you're looking for even more advice and guidance on this breathing exercise and others, you have the opportunity to learn from one of the best singers in history -- Christina Aguilera. With the Christina Aguilera Masterclass, you'll get insights into Christina's singing career, but you'll also learn about diaphragmatic breathing and useful breathing exercises for singing.
This class has an unusual and especially helpful component, too -- you can watch a couple of Christina's classes where she trains other singers. Plus, if you sign up for the Masterclass platform for Christina's class, you'll have access to countless other courses taught by experts in the field. You can take classes on music, songwriting, sports, cooking, design, and more. Read our review of Christina Aguilera Masterclass here.
Exercise 4: The Farinelli Breathing Technique
This exercise is one of the most popular breathing exercises for singing. The idea of this breathing exercise is to develop control over both inhale and exhale. To start, first, make sure you're in a good posture for singing. Then, inhale for four seconds, making sure that the inhale is steady. At four seconds, hold for one second, and then exhale another four seconds. Once you're comfortable with that level, increase the time to six seconds and then eight seconds. For a walkthrough of this breathing exercise, check out this helpful video lesson.
Exercise 5: Solfege
This one isn't strictly a breathing exercise, but it's a good way to test your diaphragmatic breathing abilities, especially as you're just learning valuable singing skills. Solfege is essentially singing the "Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do" that you've likely heard in The Sound of Music. When done along with a piano, it can also be a great resource for ear training.
If you have a piano handy, you'll want to start solfege on middle C. But if you don't, this is still a great exercise to practice breathing techniques while singing in different pitches. Sing through "Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do" while going up in pitch. Then, go back down. If you really want to practice proper breathing on longer notes, you may want to draw out each syllable while making sure you stay on key. If you've never practiced solfege before and want a guide, check out this video featuring a solfege sing-along.
Exercise 6: The Feather Exercise
As a singer, one of the most important things to master is a strong, consistent exhale. A weak or unsteady exhale can make your voice shaky or cause it to crack. And if you need to sing with real vocal power, a poor exhale means that a note that's meant to be powerful will come off as weak.
To improve your exhalation, one of the better exercises for singing is the feather exercise. If you want a feather to stay suspended in the air, it needs a steady airflow pushing it up. To practice this, first, breathe in a reasonable amount of air. Then, toss the feather into the air and use your breath to keep it afloat. You'll probably need to follow it around the room.
While this is one of the breathing exercises that does not involve actual singing, it lets you practice key breathing techniques. Namely, you'll need to work on breathing in quickly before exhaling again in order to keep the feather afloat. As exercises for singing go, this one might seem a little silly, but it does provide valuable practice.
If you want more information on proper breathing and the role that exhalation plays in singing, check out this video on how to breathe as you sing.
For more breathing exercises and other tips to improve your singing, you might want to check out Singorama. We think Singorama is one of the better singing classes out there. It of course teaches you breathing exercises, but it also uses other strategies to help you succeed as a singer. We especially like the emphasis it places on the "mixed voice" which is a mixture of your head voice and your chest voice.
Transitioning from your head voice to your chest voice is an important skill to have, but if you haven't mastered that transition, you run the risk of your voice cracking while singing. And while Singorama focuses on expanding your vocal range, it also involves breathing exercises to help you cultivate a rich vocal tone. This can be hard to do on your own, but an expertly-designed course like this one can help you take your singing to the next level relatively quickly.
Exercise 7: The Bouncy Hiss Exercise
The hiss exercises one of the best breathing exercises out there. But you can modify it to make it a little more challenging. The bouncy hiss is designed to help you practice breathing the way you would in a song that involves several different pitches sung in quick succession.
To do the bouncy hiss breathing exercise, start doing the hiss exercises described above. But instead of making a consistent hiss, you'll use your throat and your neck muscles to interrupt that hiss for a split-second several times over. To practice both this exercise and to work on your breathing in general, it's a good idea to first breathe in for four seconds, hold the air for another four seconds, and then exhale using the bouncy hiss for another four seconds. As you get more comfortable, you can continue to increase the time for a second or two.
One of the benefits of this exercise is that it tests your support of your breath over relatively long notes. To see how you can challenge yourself with the hiss exercise, check out this "hiss challenge" video Try this one first with a non-bouncy hiss, and then practice it with the bouncy hiss for an even greater challenge.
Exercise 8: Controlled Breathing
This is one of those breathing exercises that are probably best for beginners. Most experienced singers have a good enough handle on their breathing that they don't really need to practice controlling it. To start, practice slowly breathing in, making sure to fill your lungs. After holding for a second, make sure that you then exhale gradually.
Once you've mastered the slower inhale, start practicing drawing in as much air as you can as quickly as you can. But on the exhale, continue to keep it slow. This form of the exercise mimics what you need to do in a vocal performance -- you often don't have a lot of time to breathe in before you need to hit the next note.
This exercise is especially valuable for making sure you have enough air for getting through any song you want to sing. If you do find yourself running out of air, this video will give you some insight into the problem and help you solve it, too.
If you want access to even more breathing exercises and to a method that has helped even high-profile singers get to where they are in their careers, check out the Roger Love Singing Academy. Roger Love is one of the most renowned vocal coaches in the world, and he has coached Grammy-winning artists.
The online Roger Love Singing Academy lets you access Roger's incredible method for much less than an in-person lesson. Much of his method focused on learning to sing with the mixed voice, which is essentially a blend of the head voice and the chest voice. It can be difficult to discover how to blend these two voices on your own, but mastering it will give your voice professional polish and make a difference in each performance.
Hopefully, you found our list of breathing exercises helpful! If you're looking to expand your repertoire of exercises, it can be helpful to add in one or two of these techniques each week. What do you think? Did we leave any key exercises out? Let us know in the comments, and please don't forget to share if you found it helpful!