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Phrases that don't let you catch a breath

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Billy Budapest
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How do you guys handle when there're vocal phrases built on a high note (like in a song chorus), but the phrases come so close together that you can't get a breath to get keep the high note going? The choruses of Bruno Mars "Runaway Baby", One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful", and Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" all have this in common. Makes the songs really tough.

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Try this exercise (with the I vowel on a note in the E4-E5 range, just as an example):

"I - (breathe) - I - (breathe) - I ...... ".

All those I vowels have the same pitch and only last for one or two seconds. Do this until you start to get tired and feel that your technique would get compromized because of it. This is a good way to test if you technique and vowels are good. The goal is to NOT have each subsequent I vowel feel more difficult than the ones before. Otherwise you're building up gradual pressure and it will affect your stamina.

This is at least one way that could help you. It helped me at least.

Another good way is just to sing the entire song with barely audible volume. It's not as easy as you might think, at least not for me, until recently, I guess. Then you'll know that you can at least sing the song SOMEHOW and can gradually experiment with increasing volume and compression later. I've used songs like Bruno Mars' "Locked out of heaven" for this purpose.

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How do you guys handle when there're vocal phrases built on a high note (like in a song chorus), but the phrases come so close together that you can't get a breath to get keep the high note going? The choruses of Bruno Mars "Runaway Baby", One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful", and Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" all have this in common. Makes the songs really tough.

Bob (VIDEOHERE) has mentioned learning to fit in little catch breaths...tiny quick breaths.

The moments to breathe are there. You just have to get really good at doing it very quick and relaxing quickly in that split second.

Some other tips to help with this:

Print out the lyrics and mark every point you can take a breath

Modify your technique to not require as much breath pressure on high notes

Practice good inhalation technique and learn how to get a quick and full breath without inducing tension

Practice singing at the very end of an exhale and maintaining your technique through that

Regular cardiovascular exercise to increase lung capacity

Expanding on inhalation technique I think it generally comes down to:

-open throat, almost yawn-like

-as silent as you can make it

-through the mouth (for these situations...through the nose is healthier but mouth is more efficient)

-expand everywhere...lower torso, ribs, push diaphragm down, everything

-good posture

As for keeping it together at the end of an exhalation that's something I'm still figuring out myself.

jonpall's exercise seems cool too.

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Try this exercise (with the I vowel on a note in the E4-E5 range, just as an example):

"I - (breathe) - I - (breathe) - I ...... ".

All those I vowels have the same pitch and only last for one or two seconds. Do this until you start to get tired and feel that your technique would get compromized because of it. This is a good way to test if you technique and vowels are good. The goal is to NOT have each subsequent I vowel feel more difficult than the ones before. Otherwise you're building up gradual pressure and it will affect your stamina.

This is at least one way that could help you. It helped me at least.

Another good way is just to sing the entire song with barely audible volume. It's not as easy as you might think, at least not for me, until recently, I guess. Then you'll know that you can at least sing the song SOMEHOW and can gradually experiment with increasing volume and compression later. I've used songs like Bruno Mars' "Locked out of heaven" for this purpose.

Don't stop the note then take a breath. Stop the note BY TAKING THE BREATH. Do not stop the breath then sing. Stop the breath BY SINGING.

I am not a teacher. If Felipe or Daniel says I'm being stupid I probably am. :P

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By the way here's a great song for practicing the quick breathing and stamina, without it being super high. Might be good training wheels for you or if you have a lower voice like me it may be just as challenging as those other tunes. It's still high for me as a baritone in the sense that, while those notes wouldn't feel difficult normally, with so little time to relax in between phrases it becomes difficult to hang up there the whole time.

Sing the lead part only obviously.

At 1:40 it picks up pace and the challenge really begins. 3 and half minutes of near-nonstop singing follows...

The repeating part at 2:42 sounds simple but it's really brutal stamina-wise until after you've practiced it a lot and figured out how to relax through it. Happens again later in the song too.

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for me, yes, as the phrases go on, the note gets harder to maintain. It's almost like I have to do the all the phrases on one long breath, but it doesn't really work. Doing the higher notes quieter might help, if I can get them out. In theory it makes total sense. In practice, not sure I can still hit the note without the extra volume.

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for me, yes, as the phrases go on, the note gets harder to maintain. It's almost like I have to do the all the phrases on one long breath, but it doesn't really work. Doing the higher notes quieter might help, if I can get them out. In theory it makes total sense. In practice, not sure I can still hit the note without the extra volume.

So don't do all the phrases on one long breath :D.

If you mark where to take the breaths there will almost always be enough places to breathe comfortably. Provided your overall technique is decent.

As for the high notes, it way help to work up from a soft place instead of vice versa. That will help shed the weight that can't be maintained without lots of breath pressure. And then you have to get into the process of bridging that everybody hates. But hey, if you wanna get through Don't Stop Believing without straining like hell and you're not a tenor, IMO it has to be done. You have to really shed that weight if you want to get past the strain once and for all. Not just decrease the volume but the effort. In fact the big advantage of shedding that weight is being able to get more sound with less effort as now you can add back the volume through resonance.

Just my opinion. There are certainly cons to that approach. It takes less strength and it's healthier but it's also harder to coordinate.

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tiny breaths between, but without gasping. I.E relaxed inhale. I do an exercise that starts by breathing in for 4 beats, then holding a vowel for 4, then breathe in for 2 beats, sing the vowel for 4, then breathe in for 1 beat, sing the vowel, breathe in for half a beat (quick inhale). Each time the inhale gets quicker and quicker. You're just speeding up the process that you started with. Make sure the breath is silent or quiet. Beginners have a tendency to gasp for it.

Another thing that might help is to not THINK of breathing in at all. Think of expanding, you obviously do take a breath in but without actually thinking of taking a breath in, the outcome is a relaxed and low inhale.

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