Kelly Clarkson’s breathing

Dear Ms Bee 
Can you tell me why female singers (like Kelly Clarkson in Mr know It All) gasp out in on mic and have poor breath control/support /management? Are they really out of breath after singing in studio and would it be hard to do same song in concert if done say 5th song in concert? How do they calm breathing down after concert and where can I find information on that subject. I hope you can help.

Hi there and thanks for your question.

There are a few reasons for noisy breathing…I, myself, am a noisy breather, and constantly have to work at minimizing it. I am also what you would call a breathy singer. Many pop/rock/jazz singers are breathy singers. Kelly Clarkson is a breathy singer. This is their trademark sound and possibly why we love their voice.
First, please note, that being a noisy breather does not necessarily mean a singer has poor breath support or management.
You will notice that noisy breathing is almost always only heard with singers performing rock/pop/country….. in other words, a speech-like style. You will not hear noisy breath with classical or musical theater singing. There are reasons for this.
Typically, musical theater and classical singers maintain a mid to low larynx, flat or depressed tongue, and a high soft palate. This allows for a very open throat. They are trained to do this, and this is why they sound the way they do. The sound is resonating in a very open area. There is a lot of space in the back of the throat when they breath in.
However, with pop/rock/country/jazz style, good singers will typically have a mid to high larynx position, a higher tongue, and the soft palate is usually at mid level (speech level). Not near the same space in the back of the throat as noted above. And let’s not forget the uvula hanging down off the soft palate too. This can make for an easy environment of noisy breathing.
High Pitches:  Words sung on high pitches that are above the first passagio and into the second passagio can cause a singer many challenges including tension in the jaw, tongue, throat, and also noisy breathing. Note that maintaining a “speech-like” coordination in this area isn’t considered good technique.  Instead, the sound should be allowed to resonate further back into the soft palate as you sing higher. This, of course, changes the sound of the singer which isn’t necessarily desirable.
Singers who CAN maintain a “speech-like” coordination above the first and second passagio have been known to sell millions of records! Is it wise for them to do this? Is it easy for them to do this without injury? The answer is obviously no….but it can be done safely with attention to much detail. It’s no different than an athlete maintaining top form for his game.
The trick for singers with noisy breathing is to be aware. I try to maintain as high a soft palate as I can when I breath in. I try and find the balanced coordination where I can maintain a less noisy intake of air and still produce the sound I want to put out. This involves engaging my ENTIRE body to find the balance, and a huge part of it is, indeed, breath support.
It is much easier to sing ballads with no breath noise because there is time after each phrase to coordinate and maintain balance. With up-tempo songs, you must breath in quicker, and it is much more challenging especially on high pitches usually found in the chorus.
Remember what I said about a “speech-like” voice in this area? It’s difficult to form words at these pitches and still be able to resonate off the hard palate. If the singer raises the soft palate the sound may resonate further back and possibly stop resonating on the hard palate, and this may not be the sound the singer wants.
Again, the breath noise can easily happen because when the singer quickly breaths in, the conditions are poor. The breath is passing quickly through a narrow passage and hitting the soft palate, uvula, and high tongue.
I hope this makes sense. Thanks again for your question. Susie

The Breathy Voice

Many singers are told and believe a breathy voice is harmful. This isn’t necessarily true.

Bottom line, too much of any one thing can be harmful. But having the control over a breathy voice can be a great thing. You need lots of breath to belt and to sing long phrases. The key is the ability to allow that breath to pass through the vocal cords in a controlled manner.

Singers who “pull chest” quite often are not allowing enough air too pass through the cords as they ascend in pitch. In other words, they may squeeze the cords to stop the air creating over-compression. These singers tend to get louder as they sing higher.

Next time you are singing the chorus of your song, try to add a little more air. If you “flip” into falcetto, it could mean you need to work on the control of adding more breath. Try to sing with less volume.  Involve your chest and abdomen in the physical control needed to control your breath. Try and find that balance where you feel the same freedom at the bottom of your range as you do at the top.

Questions? Why not drop me a line. Susie


Good technique starts where you speak

Are you aware of your vocal habits? Do you have a breathy speaking voice?  Is your voice too loud, too soft? Do you speak with a monotone sound that isn’t very interesting?

Take the time and analyze your speaking voice. This is a great precursor to singing well.

Being self aware of how your voice “feels” can help you achieve ideal changes…..changes that happen one little step at a time.

Taking your speaking voice to the next level means knowing your default and working on the opposite to achieve balance.

If your voice is breathy, try focusing on your consonants with good enunciation. Put your effort into defining your words and using your entire self to articulate. Stand tall and strong. Be confident. Take charge.

If your voice is loud there could be a few reasons. Being reasonably loud is a good thing. Being too loud and breathy can be problem.

Try forming your sentences with a more sing-song like approach. In other words, vary the ups and downs of the pitches you are speaking on. This is a great approach for all voices. Remember to enunciate well and articulate your consonants with precision. Being self aware is the first step to controlling your speaking voice. Don’t let your words simply “fall” out of your mouth. Take the time to control the flow and manage the small pitch changes in your voice. This adds interest to your speaking voice. It’s a great way to draw attention and make people listen.

Take note of how you shout, yell and cheer. Careful here….bad habits can take over. Here is a great time to use a more sing-song like approach to your voice. A slightly higher pitch will possibly stop you from releasing so much air when you yell and speak. Consider if you were in a loud environment and you wanted to tell your friend something funny but you didn’t want anyone else to hear you.  Notice your body energy that you are using to keep your voice controlled so no one else can hear you.

A great exercise for all speaking voices is the word “goog”.  It’s a bit of a tongue twister for some people, and that’s another reason why it’s such a good exercise. Say it up and down through your entire range. Pretend you are a little baby or a cartoon character, or an annoying bratty child. Replace all the words in your favourite song with the word “goog”. Do you notice the edge, clarity and precision to the sound? If so, then you are doing it correctly. If you can’t determine if you doing it correctly to get the preciseness of the sound, then do it over again a little quieter but with the same intensity (enunciate well and focus on the “g”).  But, never whisper!  Whispering is not a useful tool for improving the voice. A whispery voice is not a good quiet voice. Instead, use your entire body energy and practise with controlled effort. This will allow you to decrease your volume and maintain your intensity in a healthy.

Have fun and let me know how it goes? Do it consistently every day and you should notice some positive changes in your voice soon!