Coro de Câmara da Universidade de Lisboa © Jonas Persson

6 Reasons the Breath Is So Important in Choir Singing

Breathing makes all the difference in choral singing - we tell you why!

Your Voice

Choir singing, like life, is deeply connected to the breath. The two are so intertwined that it can be hard to talk about choral music without mentioning breathing. And when you are looking for vocal tips, you are almost always working on the breath.

Below, we’ve gathered the six main reasons why the breath is so central to choir singing.

Reason 1: Lung Capacity

Your lung capacity is the hard limit on how long and how loudly you can sing with each breath. The better your breathing, the greater your lung capacity. The greater your lung capacity, the more you can do with your voice. That makes this the foundation of singing at your best.

Almost all breathing exercises, in some way or another, will increase lung capacity — that includes choir practice itself. But taking the time to expand your lung capacity for its own sake can be a real difference maker. Any attention paid to this element of your breath will support everything else you do in choir music.

Reason 2: Overall Power

With great lung capacity comes another essential element to singing — overall power. Great breathing technique allows you to exhale more air more quickly. That means you can hit that note with a lot more power.

Today, most choirs will make use of microphones, and this can lead to the misconception that a powerful voice isn’t as necessary as it used to be. That just isn’t true. A powerful voice can move us in a way that weaker voices can’t. And while a microphone can help people in the back of an auditorium hear all the details better, it can’t make up for a voice that lacks strong breath.

Reason 3: Control and Agility

Breathing isn’t all about how much you can take in and how forcefully you can push it out. There are also the little moves you make in between. You might need to pivot from a note to a quick inhale to prepare yourself for a lengthy sustained part — and that requires control and agility.

Great breathing trains the muscles you will rely on during those tricky moments. Greater control and agility also allows you to more quickly master new material. That saves you preparation time figuring out the basics, giving you more time to explore the nuances that will elevate your performance.

Reason 4: Fullness and Tone

The control over your breath leads into this next reason, but here we need to get a bit into the technical side of how singing works. A fuller voice has better coordination between the out breath and the opening or closing of the vocal cords. So while it isn’t all about breath, it’s a necessary component. Tone, on the other hand, refers to the overall sound — typically measured by the held out vowels. Better breathing gives you time and confidence to express your tone.

These are the fine points that set apart individual singers, and they are also those things that we can bring to choral music to maximize how our voices sound together.

Reason 5: Protects Vocal Cords

Singing involves moving the vocal cords, and the better breath support you have, the less this movement causes strain. When choristers have poor breath support, they end up having to push more urgently in the throat, leading to unnecessary damage.

This can lead to a sore throat from a long night of singing, but in the long run, the consequences are even more dire. It is important to protect your vocal cords as much as you can — and breath support is a great way to do this.

Reason 6: Fewer Breaths Per Passage

We’ve all been on the risers singing a difficult passage, struggling to get enough breath. But when you have proper breathing, this becomes easier and easier. That means you can take fewer breaths per passage, and so you don’t have to awkwardly fit breaths where they don’t go!

This feature becomes extremely helpful the more your repertoire includes acrobatic pieces that really test the endurance of singers. And if you have the breathwork to do it, that means you open up your choir singing to a whole new world of music.

Breathing and Choir Singing

The breath is an integral part of choir singing. Going through the reasons it is so important puts us back in touch with this essential part of singing and living.

And what do you do when you strengthen your breathing and are ready to sing with the best choirs in the world? It’s time to join an international choir competition