Basic Vocal Techniques
by Joanna Ortega
Session 1: Breathing Techniques
Importance of Having the Right Technique
Breathing is the foundation of singing, so having the right breathing technique allows for greater control over one’s singing capabilities.
The right breath technique gears one to build their tone, volume, range and phrasing.
The Correct Way
There is a difference from the way we breathe normally (for our daily activities) to the way we breathe for singing. During our day-to-day activities, we breathe shallowly and evenly; when we sing, however, we need to inhale quickly and deeply, and control our exhalation. This intense breath management requires the technique called “diaphragmatic breathing”.
Diaphragmatic breathing: in a nutshell, it is a method of compressing the diaphragm, so as to allow for greater expansion of the lungs to take in more air. This action causes the abdomen to be pushed outwards slightly
It is important to note that when using the right technique, one should not feel their shoulders moving upwards when inhaling, nor should they be puffing out their chest in any instance.
How Do I Know If I’m Doing It Right?
There are some exercises you can do at home to help you feel your breath movement
Exercise 1: Lying on the floor
- Lie down flat on the floor and place a book on your abdomen
- As you inhale, you will notice that the book rises up, and then falls gently as you exhale. Feel the movement of your breath and the muscles in your body, specifically your abdomen, as you do this exercise
Exercise 2: Squatting down
- Squat on the floor with your heels either on the floor or off, leaning slightly forward towards your knees. You can place your hands on the floor to keep your balance.
- As you inhale, notice that your abdomen is moving outwards and that your lower back is expanding
The above exercises will help you to identify the breath movement in your body, and lets you recognize and apply the right technique whilst you are standing.
Exercise 3: Standing
- Stand in a relaxed and appropriate singing posture. Place one hand on your abdomen and another on your lower back
- As you inhale, feel the expansion of your abdomen. Make sure it’s the same movement as the previous 2 exercises
The Road to Improvement
It’s important to keep practicing these exercises and building the muscle memory so that your body knows that when it’s time to sing, you’ll automatically switch breathing methods.
Spend about 10 minutes daily practicing the breathing exercise; inhale for 4 counts, and out for 8 counts. Slowly increase the duration of exhalation daily to increase stamina. Ensure that you are using the diaphragmatic breathing technique always!
 Posture: Stand up straight, as if being pulled upwards by your hair, and your shoulders should be relaxed. Hands comfortably at your sides; remember not to cross your arms whilst singing as it restricts the expansion of your lungs. Feet should be shoulder-length apart. It is important to note that we are trying to create the straightest and fastest pathway for the air to come up from our lungs and out through our mouths; no slouching!