Breath control in singing is easily overlooked by beginners – here’s why breath exercise for singing is important, with some exercises to try.

When singing comes naturally, it’s not something that you pay much attention to. You just sing! But even if you’re casually crooning along to your guitar, your voice needs good breath support to perform at its best.

Once you start vocal breathing exercises, you’ll notice the difference. You’ll hopefully find your body is more relaxed, your lung capacity improves, your voice is less tired, and you have more control.

Whether you’re learning to sing or a professional, check out these ideas of breathing techniques for singing.

Breath control in singing – how to get started

To understand the correct way to breathe, lie on your back, hands on your stomach. Inhale through your nose for four beats and notice your hands rise – exhale through your mouth for four beats, and your hands will lower.

It’s important to relax – don’t tense your shoulders, arms, back or chest. Imagine a ring around your diaphragm, round your waist. Keep your shoulders down as you breathe in through your nose, trying to push the imaginary ring outwards. Breathe out through your nose and mouth.

Breathing for singing exercises

Proper breath support will help prevent straining or damaging your voice while singing. Try these two techniques to improve your breath control.

Making a hissing “ess” sound is a great way to activate your diaphragm, and this exercise builds up to long steady phrases. Be mindful of your breathing as you go.

Try breathing in through your nose for four beats, then hissing as you breathe out through your nose and mouth for four beats, keeping the hissing steady and consistent in volume. Vary the amount of time you hiss out with each new exercise, building to hissing outwards for 20 beats. The full exercise is as follows:

  1. Breathe in for 4 beats, hiss out for 4 beats
  2. In for 6 beats, out for 10 beats
  3. In for 6 beats, out for 12 beats
  4. In for 2 beats, out of 12 beats
  5. In for 4 beats, out of 16 beats
  6. In for 2 beats, out for 16 beats
  7. In for 4 beats, out for 20 beats
  8. In for 1 beat, out for 20 beats

You can also try an exercise that involves snatching in breaths to fill your lungs. Begin over four beats, breathing in for increasing amounts until you fill up your lungs to full capacity on the fourth beat, then breathe out in snatches until beat 12.

  1. Breathe in a quarter full
  2. Breathe in half full
  3. Breathe in three quarters full
  4. Breathe in fully
  5. Breathe out gradually in 8 breaths


  1. Breathe in half full
  2. Breathe in fully
  3. Breathe out gradually in 8 breaths

Singing warm up

Once you’ve focused your breathing to let you take big, full breaths, don’t forget to warm up your voice. Just as warming up before going for a run activates your muscles to avoid injury, you should warm up your vocal cords before spending an extended amount of time singing.

Warming up and going through some breathing exercises relaxes the body and mind whilst getting your muscles ready to perform. I know, you probably feel like you can’t be bothered, but you don’t need to spend too long on a vocal warm up – five or ten minutes will do.

Humming and buzzing up and down scales within your vocal range are good ways to warm up the voice.

A combination of breathing exercises and vocal warm ups will set you up for your band practise or production session. Breathing exercises are also calming and have a meditative effect, so try before a performance to soothe any nerves – or for a mindful break on a stressful day.

If you found that useful, check out our vocal health tips and vocal production advice.

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