At the simplest level, singing is nothing but breath vibrating your vocal chords. No breath, no sound.
To verify this, try closing your mouth, pinching your nostrils shut and then humming. After the lungs empty their air into your expanding cheeks, the sound is gone.
You could say that the most masterful singers and vocalizers in the world are those with the most awareness and mastery of their own breath, those with the ability to shift the breath to support the sounds they want to make.
Our singing will reflect the state of our breath. If we are anxious, with short, clipped breaths, it will be challenging to produce, long, languid tones. Similarly, if we are tired, with yawny breath, it will be challenging to produce, fast, punchy sounds.
It’s very useful to become more and more aware of our breath and the role it plays in our voice.
Start by listening for and feeling for what your breath is like right now. Don’t try to change your it, just pay attention to what it’s doing at this moment. Is it slow and easy? Quick and light? Jerky and inconsistent?
Now listen. What does your breath sound like? Can you hear it?
Then, what does it feel like in the body? Where do you feel it? What’s moving the most when you breathe? Your chest? Your belly? Something else?
Put the back of your hand close to your mouth and nostrils so you can feel your exhalations. This is one way of “looking in the mirror” to see what your breath is like.
Then, place a finger over the opening of each ear, as if you are shielding from a loud sound. Listen to your breathing now.
Now with your fingers still there, imagine that your voice is a bird that flies over a ridge into a canyon and encounters “the winds” of your breath in this moment. Just keep breathing as you have been and lightly begin to add your voice to the breath, as if it were that bird floating on those winds. It may sound like sighs. When each exhale is done, that tone is done, until the next exhale takes it forward a little more.
Remove your fingers from your ears and try this again.
Can you feel effortless in this exploration? Can you let your breath “lead” your voice? Can you be open to whatever sounds do or don’t come out?
As you play around with this, what do you notice about your breath? About your habits of making effort? About how your breath and your voice change as you continue?