25 Oct 2013

Breathing Exercise for Singing: How to Sing Louder With Less Effort


(you choose ~ watch the lesson above or read the lesson below!) 


Breathing Exercise for Singing: How to Sing Louder With Less Effort


The issue…


Do you wish your voice were louder?  Or perhaps you have a large voice, but find when you are singing loudly you are experiencing some vocal fatigue. Maybe there is a phrase of music that you need to sing all in one breath, but are having difficulty managing your breath? Surprisingly, the solution to these issues may be one simple exercise, and today I am going to share it with you…


Before we begin, please keep in mind that only you will know what is right for your voice and your body – take what works and forget the rest…apply what you feel is truly resonating with you.


Let’s look at the combination of efficient breath use and resonance…


As singers, you and I have the same physiology to create sound – but each of us has a unique voice – so what’s at play? The breath goes in, and as we choose to speak or sing on the exhale, the vocal folds vibrate rapidly, chopping air into a frequency…or sound wave – our unique sound is made by sound waves being influence by our throat, nasal cavities, mouth….these are your resonance characteristics…   the amount of air you allow to flow through your vocal folds also affects your sound.


To create a louder sound, sing with less effort, or sing a phrase in one breath, we must explore how we are using our breath while optimizing our resonance…and not fall prey to the idea that to create a bigger sound or to sing a phrase in one breath we need to push more air out….


Try this…


This exercise is adapted from an exercise in a book called Voice and the Alexander Technique by Jane Ruby Heinrich


Light a candle and hold it 8 -10 inches from your mouth and direct an air stream at the flame…it is blown out…the larynx, nasal cavities…the resonators are not involved in this air stream.


Now re-light the candle and hold it 8-10 inches from your mouth and sing a vowel…any vowel…the flame barely moves…or that is the goal. This is a wonderful example of the resonators at work. The air mixes with the resonators – the throat, nasal cavities, mouth – the breath is now a sound wave – as Jane Ruby Heinrich puts it, “ When speaking or singing, the molecules move back and forth colliding with each other in a highly organized fashion and sending the wave motion out into space, but the individual air molecules do not travel very far themselves.”


How I apply it…


Sometimes I may have a phrase in a piece of music that I am having difficulty singing in one breath  – so I start to problem solve – one reason may be that I am blowing out too much air in the phrase. I will light the candle and sing the melodic line of the phrase on a vowel, watching the flame to see if and when it flickers. Once I have made sure I am using my breath well on one vowel, I will then sing the melodic line again, but this time singing the vowels of each word without consonants, and watching for any unnecessary use of extra air as I transition from one vowel to the next. For example; if the phrase is the opening of Schubert’s “ Ave Maria, “ I will first sing it on aaaaa, then I will sing aaaaaa, eeeeee, aaaaa, iiiiii, aaaaaaa. This exercise has often helped me target the specific note or vowel that I need to fix, enabling me to perform the once difficult phrase in one breath.


While each student is different, keep in mind that creating a sound that carries to the back of the room is not about pushing out more air…


If you desire to sing louder or enhance your breath management, a great place to start your discovery is becoming curious about your how you are optimizing your resonance…


I hope this candle exercise will help you problem solve in the future.  Please feel free comment below or ask me any singing questions below and I will reply to you promptly.


Until next time ~ Rejoice In Your Voice ™! 



  1. Tricia, I love this practical exercise. As both a speaker and a just-for-fun singer, I have plenty of opportunities to project well – I just don’t always manage it. I think my results will be better and more consistent once I start using this exercise. Thanks!

    1. Great, Kathleen! You are so welcome!Let me know how it goes 🙂

  2. This is a fabulous exercise which I plan to share with my women’s singing group! Thank you so much Tricia!

    1. Kelley, you are so welcome! I am so glad that you found it useful 🙂 Happy singing to you and your singing group!

  3. Hmm, I’m not a singer, but I am a speaker and I love this exercise – it will help me to project without becoming strident or shrill. Thanks so much, Tricia!

    1. You are so welcome! Great idea! Practice your speech just on vowels and the flame will reveal all 🙂
      Thanks for reading! Best wishes with your speeches!

  4. Thank you for the exercise. It will definitely apply to speaking as well. I hate it when I listen to speakers whose voices are barely audible. This is perfect to avoid that in myself.

    1. I am so glad you found it helpful. I use it all the time when preparing to speak. I find it helps me project my voice and not over use it – so by the end the day I still feel energized and ready to do it again the next day 🙂 Thanks for you comment, Lilla. And best wishes with your speaking engagements!


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