The 4 Stages Of Proper Breathing Explained

In my previous blog I started talking about the breathing process that a singer should go through. In that article I mentioned that there are four stages of proper breathing: Inhalation, Suspension, Phonation(exhalation) and the resting period. I thought it would be helpful to go into more detail about each one. Today I’ll cover the first two, Inhalation and Suspension.

First let’s talk about Inhalation.
During the inhalation stage of breathing it is critical for the singer to have a relaxed body so that the air can fill in where necessary. Referring back to a balloon analogy I used in the first blog , when air is blown into it the balloon expands all the way around. When inhaling air, as a singer the mid section of your body should expand just as that balloon does, freely allowing the air to fill the lungs from bottom to top. The average singer is prone to taking a shallow inhalation right before they sing. But I cannot tell you how imperative that intentional deep breath is every time you open your mouth to sing. The body should be erect in a natural stance. The shoulders are not in any way involved in the inhalation process. The only movement there should be is in the mid section of the body, from the air filling in.

At first this step will seem like it is a bit much to do with all the words, runs and pitches that one has to remember along with nerves. This air is the foundation of your singing, it will determine if you will be on top of your pitch or in between two pitches. This air will determine if your tone will be steady or shaky. This air is your support system and if you do not allow it in and control the way you release it, it will surely be heard when you begin to sing.
The second stage that I mentioned was Suspension.

This stage is not as intricate as it may sound. It is merely a thinking period. The question you should ask is “what do I want to do with this air?” A singer needs to constantly be thinking about how much air they need and what they want to do with the air once they have it. During this process is when you set the stage for how your air will come out. Back to the balloon idea, we know that we do not want all the air to escape at one time. We have a certain amount of bars to sing before another breath should be taken. So with the balloon concept in mind think of how you squeeze the top so the air slowly comes out of the balloon.

As a singer you should prepare yourself to fight against letting all of your air go at once. Instead of collapsing while you are singing, fight against that and force your lungs not to cave in. Once again this stage is simply a moment in time for you to think about what you are about to do with the air that you have allowed into your lungs.
These steps in the breathing process are a lot to think about and I would recommend taking things one-step at a time. Get the inhalation stage down first. Every time you sing I want you to purposely stand confident and let the air fill your lungs. It has to be done on purpose because as church singers we are often caught off guard. This will make you take a quick, shallow breath so you can start singing on time. But if it is done on purpose you will be ready before time. Then once you are done with a phrase and are ready to breath again practice the habit again. Notice I said HABIT! That is what these four stages should become every time you sing.

Next week I’ll cover the last two; Phonation and Resting Period. Keep in mind too, there are also some important muscles that are used during this process: abdominal, internal intercostal and lower pelvic. We’ll be talking about those in future blogs. Look for some videos soon as well. See you soon!

Shena Crane is a Classically trained professional vocal coach. She graduated from University Of Texas At Arlington. Shena holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Education as well as an Associates Degree in Music/Performance.

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