Why Do I Run Out of Breath When I Sing?

Do you ever wonder how professional singers perform so naturally while you run out of breath while singing? You may have been told that it is because you are not breathing correctly. If you were part of your school choir or a singing class your teacher might encourage you to sing not from your throat but from your diaphragm. He or she might also tell you to breathe in deeply and use more air to support your voice.

While breathing correctly while singing is a vital skill to learn, simply relying on breathing techniques does not always solve this problem. In fact, sometimes just using more air can worsen things. As everything in life is dependent on cause and effect, a deeper exploration into what could be causing you to lose your breath while singing is necessary.

Reason for Running Out of Breath

One of the reasons for running out of breath could be that the person has a lack of vocal fold closure and the resulting resistance. It is not always about how much air you took in but about how efficiently you used it. There are times when singers use a husky or breathy effect to add emotion and style to their singing. This is fine as long as it is a matter of choice. But if the breathiness in your voice cannot be controlled and characterizes your singing, it becomes an issue of technique.

Experts who have taught for years, often point out that it is the lack of chest voice that is responsible for singers losing their breath. The chest voice is the quality of sound of your natural speaking voice. If you place your hand on your heart and say AH you will feel a vibration on your chest. This more spoken voice is your chest voice.

Owing to cultural and physiological influences, a few female singers sing more quietly in a lower range in a softer breathier tone. Singing without using the chest voice results in a weaker sound because of the vocal fold not being engaged. Additionally, when your vocal folds are not resisting air optimally you have to push out the extra air to produce greater sound. Thus a singer lacking chest voice will usually run out of breath.

How to Know Why You are Running Out of Breath?

So, how do you know why you are running out of breath when you sing? How can you tell whether it is due to shallow breathing or a breathy quality of tone or because you have a light chest voice?

Deciphering this on your own can be quite a tricky exercise as you are so used to the sound of your voice. A trained and experienced singing teacher will be able to help you understand exactly why you are running out of breath while singing. This is because they are trained to listen to voices and can accurately pinpoint not just the areas where improvement is needed but also the causes of the problem and strategies to remedy it.

The first step your trainer will take to help you sing without running out of breath is to make sure that you are inhaling enough air with a low breath that is satisfying. If you are inhaling in a manner where you have filled your upper lungs by raising your shoulders and chest you might not be taking in enough air for what you are going to sing. Another scenario is that most of the air you have inhaled will be quickly exhaled as your rib cage collapses as you start your singing.

In a situation, where you have taken in enough air despite which your singing sounds breathy and the air quickly leaks out, a particular exercise can help you overcome this breathiness. This exercise involves humming with a sound that sounds like a creaky door.

Another method to treat breathiness is to apply the “Cry” voice quality. This translates into singing with a cry or a sob as this produces a tone that is less breathy and much clearer. This technique enables you as a singer to use the inner muscles on the inside of your vocal folds. It causes them to vibrate with increased tension and prevents you from releasing any extra air which you cannot afford to lose.


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