Famous Singers who all use Breath Control Differently

by Jan 30, 2019Voice0 comments

If you’ve ever signed up for any kind of singing class, you were probably told that the first step in learning to sing is learning to breathe correctly. That isn’t wrong, but it isn’t nearly as simple and concrete as they make it sound. Why? Because different types of singing require you to use air entirely differently! There are some commonalities–like that controlling your exhalation in some form is important. But each style has different demands. Here’s a video collection of famous singers using breath control in completely different ways.

Haley Reinhart

Here’s Haley Reinhart doing her famous cover of Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” She’s exhaling a lot of air through these notes, something you hear a lot of voice teachers tell you never to do because your vocal folds won’t close all the way. But it’s working for her: she sounds gorgeous, and all the aspirate offsets give the song an intimate, vulnerable quality.

Aurora Surgit and Alessio Randon

You may not have heard of Aurora Surgit and Alessio Randon, but I included this Gregorian chant to demonstrate that it isn’t just an indie pop invention to release a lot of air and sing with unappoximated vocal folds (i.e. ones that don’t fully come together). You hear this in early music, from modern-day countertenors, from 1960’s bands singing in falsetto, in jazz, and yes, in modern pop.

Christina Perri

Christina Perri isn’t heavily breathy compared to a lot of modern singers (although there’s breathiness in parts of the song), but she isn’t exactly doing a chesty belt either. For this relaxed mixy quality, she’s using less air than the breathy singers mentioned earlier, but more than if she were singing most opera and also more than if she were in a heavier (healthy) belt.

Danny Elfman

This is an interesting one. Danny Elfman isn’t singing classically or belting, but he’s using very little air for most of this. He’s singing with so little power (but still keeping his vocal folds together) that very little air is needed. He’s probably using even less air than in the operatic example we use next.

Maria Callas

Maria Callas is, of course, indicative of of the operatic style (not that all operatic sounds are created equal either). This style generally doesn’t use as much air as, say, Christina Perri uses in her music. In fact, that lovely classical sound requires a very specific amount of airflow. Too much, and it’ll either get overly breathy or force the vocal muscles to do too much work. Too little, and you won’t build up enough subglottal pressure (that is, pressure beneath the vocal folds) to create the large operatic sound. Inhalations should sit fairly low to help keep the larynx in a low position.


In the verse, Beyonce uses some air, but on the choruses, she’s in a very well-executed belt. Contrary to what many people believe, a healthy belt requires very, very little air, usually even less than an operatic style. It often feels as if your breath is standing still.

On top of that, inhalations are a little different from operatic inhalations. A low breath will help lower the larynx, something you don’t want for a comfortable belt (unless your larynx is so high that you need to counteract the tendency). To keep your larynx in a higher belt position, inhalations should feel a little higher and less full.

The point I’m trying to make is that, yes, breath control is incredibly important for singing. It’s just not a one-size-fits-all kind of technique. Some styles use more air, some less. Some require fuller breaths, others, not so much. There’s nothing wrong with any of these types of breathing as long as your throat is feeling good and you’re getting the aesthetic you want.


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