Ask the Expert – Singers that run out of puff

Ask the Expert – Singers that run out of puff

Here’s Cat White’s second post giving advice to vocalists (the first, on weak and thready voices is here). The subscriber was asking for advice for singers that run out of puff quickly especially with up-tempo songs:

One possible problem here could be that your singers are finding it difficult to find the right places to breathe in songs. Common sense would generally prevail on this one but more importantly it’s breath control again, and this is something that can’t be taught by anything other than doing. Each person has a different starting point in terms of breath capacity and levels of support. Again, teaching proper breathing techniques (our vocals DVDs cover all the basics of this) will help no end, and get people using all of their capacity rather than the standard 40%. Once you have the space for the air, it’s important to work out the muscles that help you get rid of the air.

Here’s a good exercise for increasing capacity and control. Take in a full deep breath allowing your stomach to expand as your inhale, and exhale to a long ‘ssss’ to a click count (one click per second-ish) and count how far you can go before you feel as if you are completely empty. Once you reach this point, push a little further with a few ‘t t t t’s to make sure that every last bit of breath is used, then allow the breath to come back in naturally and repeat. Try to beat yourself! You’ll find that after the first exhalation you will take in more breath than on the first go and therefore be able to get further. When this becomes easy, swap the ‘sss’ exhale for counting out loud from one upwards, and see how far you can get before the numbers become weak and unclear. When you get to this point, again use the ‘t t t’s to get rid of the rest of the air before allowing the breath to come in naturally.

By pushing yourself you are pushing your body and training the muscles not only to be stronger, but to remember what it’s like to be sustaining your breath over long periods of time, which means that when you try to sing something with a longer phrase, it will be a piece of cake.

Nerves steal breath. Fact. So it’s important to be confident that you can do what is needed of your breath and more, as no doubt when you get nervous you will lose some of your ability to control the breath. With enough practise, you can become very good at conning yourself that you are not in fact nervous, and your breath control will be flawless.


Do check out our DVDs, CDs and downloads of vocal training resources.


Other posts you may find helpful:

How to become a confident singer

Video clip from a live seminar – breath control for singers

Vocal warm-up exercises – simple humming

50 tips series – Lead vocals