I noticed a possibly major detail when listening to some tracks. That is, when a singer breathes in for the next phrase, they do it almost immediately before that phrase.

For example, they would:

  1. Finish a phrase
  2. Pause for 1-2 seconds
  3. Immediately breathe in prior to starting the next phrase

Well, what I tend to do is flip 2 and 3. I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm holding my breath since it's very brief, and I tend to inhale immediately after the phrase to catch my breath instead of holding out for 1-2 seconds. But why do professionals singers do this? Does it make for a consistent tone when not exhausting your breath at the end of a phrase? And Does it add more punch to the following phrase when breathing in right before?

Also, what exactly happens between steps 1 and 2? Are they still exhaling very slowly even after the phrase, or is there no breathing whatsoever?

  • Smooth exhale typically makes a tone easier to sustain
    – sova
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:53
  • Do you actually mean 1-2 seconds, or just a noticeable moment? Because 1-2 seconds is really long time to pause between measures. Often, a full measure will take less than 2 seconds to play, and sometimes less than 1.
    – Karen
    Feb 18, 2016 at 16:25
  • Ah that's my fault. I probably shouldn't have used the word "measure". I meant to use it in a more general way that's not necessarily a musical measure. Feb 18, 2016 at 16:40

1 Answer 1


Standard technique is "breathe, sing" with no hold stage. Plenty of times you won't have much of a gap, which is why singers practice quickly getting air right to the bottom of their lungs with deep diaphragm-controlled breathing, without gasping, raising their shoulders or other bad habits. Where there's a longer gap in the music, you can have the luxury of a slower deep breath. In an even longer gap, "normal" breathing can take over of course. You've got the idea that there's a technique to breathing to sing. Good! I suggest you now book a session with a singing coach

  • Thanks for the insight! I guess there is some inaudible release at the end of a phrase then. You raise an interesting topic though. I think that a subtle raise in shoulders or gasping is inevitable to achieve optimal breath support all the while using the diaphragm as the driving force. Alongside, some singers even breathe in with their nose for efficiency. I'm inclined to believe those factors are taught as bad habits for the sake of teaching beginners. What's your thought on this? Feb 18, 2016 at 16:56
  • We're not talking about support yet, we're talking about getting breath IN. The chest, particularly the lower chest expands, the shoulders are relaxed - they come down if anything, certainly not up. Then the air's somewhere where the diaphragm can do something with it! A gasp is a shallow breath, into the top of the lungs. It's no use to a singer. Don't look for excuses for your bad habits. Get someone to show you how to do it properly.
    – Laurence
    Feb 18, 2016 at 17:14
  • Actually, I started with a pure diaphragmatic inhalation prior to seeking a teacher. He said that such technique is a drill. A means of achieving a good foundation for breath support. Not something that should be used literally in practice. But most of all it's unnatural to breathe purely with the diaphragm. A copious amount of air at the bottom of the lungs is good, we'd both agree. But why limit to just the bottom? Even the air at the top can be useful as long as the force driving is from the diaphragm. Feb 18, 2016 at 17:32
  • Ever tried filling the bottom of the lungs WITHOUT filling the top? :-) But there's a lot of symbolism in singing tuition. "Make the sound come from your stomach" or even "Sing through your forehead" are physically pretty meaningless. But they can help. I don't think you'll find a teacher who lets you raise the shoulders though.
    – Laurence
    Feb 18, 2016 at 17:48
  • I don't think we're on the same page. My point is similar to that of filling an empty cup with water. We're both filling the bottom half just fine. But I'm just trying to add a bit more. At this point, my shoulders ever so slightly raises. This extra air isn't always necessary, but it really helps when singing in the passagio area where there is more compression in the vocal cords. Feb 18, 2016 at 18:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.