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