Chad Runyon is an award-winning vocal performer, conductor, and instructor.

Posted November 9th, 2013
Filed under Essays

Controlled Breathing in Vocal Exercises

Historically, I have recommended that students start inhaling as soon as they complete an exercise in preparation for the next one with varying results.  More recently, I started applying counts to exercises and found that in most exercises, nearly the same amount of time is available to inhale as there is to sing.  The singer’s experience, however, is one of not having enough time.  To quantify the time, for example, in a basic 5-note scale, up and down, we could count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-1 all on sung scale degrees do-re-mi-fa-sol-fa-mi-re-do and inhale (2-3-4-5-6-7-8) before the next exercise and count begins.  This is 56% singing 44% inhaling, nearly 50%-50%!  Students most commonly wait to inhale on count 8.  When I call out 2-3-4-5-6–7-8, I am reminding singers to use the 6 counts prior to 8 to begin inhaling.  This means singing a shorter last note with grace (not pressed).  In so doing, the singer enjoys a longer inhale and a more centered start to the next exercise.