Episode 11

Episode 11

Is Breathy Singing Bad For Your Voice?

In this episode we break down…

 • What is happening in your larynx when you sing or speak with a breathy tone. 

• Why it might cause vocal injury over time.

• When it might still be OK to do it!

• Why famous singers might get away with it.

• And a few tricks to take control of breathiness in your own voice.

I may also be attempting to represent, Marilyn Monroe, Liz Fraser and Billie Eilish … please forgive me all 😂😂

AND the link to sign up for my 6 week course Begin to Sing is: www.yourfreevoice.com/begintosing

Thank you so much for listening! I’d love it if you could rate and review and share with any vocal friends ❤️🎤 

Messy Transcript Here:

Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, Mr. President, happy to you. Probably the most famous breathy singing I can think of. Um, Marilyn Monroe’s amazing, uh, salute to John F. Kennedy episode 11 is breathy singing bad for you? The short answer is it depends. So it depends on how much you’re doing it, where you’re doing it, how loud you’re doing it, all these kinds of things.

It’s very, it’s one of those. Um, “it depends” answers. However, I’m gonna have you veer towards the, doing it less category. And I’m gonna tell you why. Breathy singing is a result of the vocal folds not coming together fully when you’re singing. So, if you think of those vocal folds, they’re wanting to come together so that they can vibrate against each other to make the sound that you’re trying to produce.

When you talk in a breathy quality, or you sing in a breathy voice, there’s extra air escaping, that’s not being used to make the singing tone that you’re looking for. So that’s two things are going on there. I read this somewhere. I can’t remember where now, but somebody said, imagine if you had air being blown onto your eyeball, right. That wet membrane of your eyeball would dry it out and be pretty unpleasant. Right? So your vocal folds want to be wet all the time. And if we’re constantly puffing air all over them, that isn’t getting used and turned into vibration, then it’s drying them out. So over time that can cause problems like, uh, nodes.

Right. Because if you think about nodules, vocal, nodules, like every singer’s most terrifying fantasy. Nodules are caused by the vocal folds rubbing together and creating kind of callouses on the folds. This is why they’re identified as being opposite each other. You know, it’s symmetrical inform because it’s the brushing together of the vocal folds.

And you do that often enough. This is why actually, um, most of the time vocal nodules can be treated nonsurgically by retraining your voice, how you’re using your voice. Um, I’m gonna do an episode. We’re gonna go deep into vocal health in, I think November, we’re gonna have a month before the end of the year where I’m gonna deep dive into vocal health for everyone.

 Around Halloween. Cuz that feels appropriate to me. So make sure you tune back in for that one, but for right now, let’s just say that. If the vocal folds aren’t coming together fully, when you sing happy birthday, Mr.

P there’s excess air coming out, blowing against the folds and drying them out. So you’re drying up the vocal folds, and you’re also using up air from the lungs, which means you don’t have as much air to sing with. So you definitely can’t sing with great power. When you’re singing with a breathy voice, or even when you are voicing, you know, characters with a breathy voice.

When I’m talking to voice actors about choosing characters for auditions, if it’s a major character, if it’s a main character, that’s gonna be D delivering a lot of lines. Try not to choose something. That’s super, super breath. If you can, if you can get away with it, choose a different vocal quality. Cuz that next to yelling is one of the hardest, uh, on the voice.

It’s one of the hardest to, um, recover from quickly. Right? So that’s my little Tibit for voice actors. When you’re choosing a character, try not to choose a breathy, one for singers. We all know that. I mean, I came of age in the late eighties. So I know all about breathy singing in the pop world. I feel like that’s kind of all that was happening from the bands that I was really enjoying, like cocktail twins and things like that was all like Panda,

Panda, Panda . That was my attempt at, uh, Eva by the co twins. Because that’s how I remember it. I think if I went back to listen to the recording, her voice would be actually less breathy than that, but there’s a sense in my memory that it was like that it was probably more, uh, and, uh, anyway, um, Our minds do play tricks on us a little bit around all that.

And there is absolutely no doubt that when a singer is presenting a song in a breathy way, it can feel way more emotionally resonant, way more emotionally available to us. How about that? What we have to be aware of? I think when we’re. Um, listening to singers is catch your own thoughts about what is it bringing up for you as well?

Right? So it might be that a really clear tone feels too polished to you feels too polished to you or too presentational somehow. Um, Maybe feels too distant, a a, a really breathy tone may feel weak or vulnerable or, uh, intimate, you know, just notice. What are the words that come up for you when you think about a particular vocal quality?

Cuz I tell you what you will discover all kinds of biases in your own self, um, about different qualities. So what we are trying to do is get such. Familiarity and mastery of our voices that we can engage in different techniques when we want to, when we choose to, it’s not that we’re stuck in a particular mode of singing.

I love the idea of the vocal paint box, which I will come back to in another episode, but, but really think. Sometimes the reason we can’t reproduce a sound is because we have an emotional block to that sound that is built somewhere in your shadow. It is, um, it’s buried in there and it could be that somebody in your family had a particular vocal quality that you’re trying to emulate or not emulate.

And so it becomes unavailable to you. So this is all deep and a lot, but I want you to just think about it. Okay. Back to the technical stuff a bit. I’m hearing your protestations from your head when you’re gonna say to me, but Julia, so many famous singers sing with a breathy voice. I mean, look at Billy Eilish.

True and not true. When you listen to a Billy Eilish recording, you’re hearing her singing really close up on a mic in a studio. Right for the intimate parts. Um, so what’s that bond song? Um, I should have known it’s right up against a really good quality microphone. So you can just use all the texture. It can be as light as you like, and you can sing breathy when you’re doing that.

As soon as she gets into the higher, more powerful part of that song, you listen again. It’s not breathy there. No, it’s just no time to die. No time to die. Now I’m never gonna sound like Billy Eilish, but you can hear that there’s more engagement, more resonance, especially as it’s an end sound at the beginning of the phrase.

And then she’s letting it open into a slightly more breathy tone for the, uh, R for the vowel. Right. And even if it was breathy there, if you compare the recorded version and her live version of her singing it, she’s not gonna be doing it breathy there either because a. You just can’t get the power out of your voice when you’re singing breathy and B it’s gonna be very hard for her to sustain a tour without getting vocal injury.

If she was singing breathy through most of her songs. Right. So I love a little breathy singing, but in teaspoons, like just sprinkled through for good measure to make sure that we really know the singer is feeling vulnerable about an emotional, something like that. When I trained as a voice member therapy practitioner, uh, we work with breathiness a lot called it free air.

I’ll get into that later, too. And that has a different, um, There’s a different application when we’re applying it in therapeutic work. And, um, but I’m talking right now about people who are trying to sing in a choir on the road, on tour auditioning, uh, in voiceover, all these things, try to reduce the amount of breathiness that’s in your singing or spoken tone, right.

Just generally. Okay. Okay, I’m gonna give you a few things to just try to reduce the breathiness. Now, if you just can’t get a non breathy tone, right? Because sometimes it’s just awareness, but if you really can’t get a non breathy tone, And especially if you’ve worked with a singing teacher and you still can’t get an on breathy tone, then make an appointment with your E NT or Beel, uh, laryngologist and just have them scope your vocal falls and have a little look, because remember how I said that the, um, you get a breath equality on your voice because the vocal folds aren’t coming together fully when you’re singing, they also can’t come to together fully when you’re singing.

If you already have vocal injury, like. Nodes or polyps or, uh, inflammation of some sort. You could be getting inflammation in the vocal chords because you are. And remember, I always use chords and folds interchangeably. It’s the same thing. Um, you could be getting inflammation in the vocal chords because of reflux.

Right. So if you are, and, and reflux, you may not know about, there’s a thing called silent reflux, which is very, very sneaky and, uh, that can happen without you really realizing. But if you notice that your voice is ho in the mornings, or definitely a lot lower than, uh, usual, uh, you might consider that. And my first immediate remedy for that is don’t eat for two or three hours before you go to bed.

And keep a food journal for a couple of weeks, but I’m gonna talk about that in another episode for now, we’re just talking about breathly singing particularly. So, so if we’ve eliminated any idea that you have vocal injury and it’s really just a technique thing, try this, let’s say the word, uh, hun. Right.

So we’re gonna go from very breathy to more resonant, more nasally sounding. So I’m gonna go


um, and then try to reverse it. Go.

No, no. Sounds like I’m having way more fun in here than I’m actually having. But let me just tell you if you can do those kinds of maneuvers from,

and then sustain the non breathy sound

and then try that with. Open sound, ah,

as opposed to, ah, right. Really breathy. Um, then you’re gonna be able to start to develop the technique to reduce the breathy singing. So let’s go back to Marilyn if Marilyn was my voice didn’t and she wanted to get rid of her breath equality, because she just never had enough breath to get through the end of a.

I would say, okay, sing it again. So she’d go, uh, happy birthday to you and I’d say, okay, first of all, I’m gonna have you go Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow Meow. With that very resonant quality. Right. Meow. And then I’d have her go. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. She’s gonna do these resonance increasing exercises.

And also I’ll make sure that she is using her breath efficiently, that she’s not gasping for air and raising her. Should. And then when she’s made the resonance sounds right with the tune that she’s working on. I would have her say the words again, but with that new resonant quality. So when she’s going, she’s gonna go from happy birthday to you.

Right to, and she’s done all the meows and nose and things. She’ll then go, uh, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Or we might even have it really exaggerated to start with happy birthday to you like a cartoon character, happy birthday, tell you, and then imagine. And when I’m talking to people about that nasally resonance, I’m always trying to suggest that you imagine it’s on a fader or a slider.

Right? So if we go from full nasally, happy birthday till you, I realize you have probably earbuds and I apologize, and then bring the fader down. Ha. Uh, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you to somewhere kind of in the middle. Right? I haven’t gone all the way back here. Happy birthday. Right. But try that, try the idea of working with a song, you know, really well, uh, taking it really breathy, taking it on a Meow, taking it on a, uh, what did I do?

Nae work through the song with a fade. Okay. I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, depending on when you are listening. Um, you may still be able to get the early bird discount from my begin to sing, uh, live online workshop. So check out your free voice.com/begin to sing for all the details there. Um, And please, if you’re enjoying this podcast, I would love you to leave me a review because I am invisible on iTunes.

Um, yeah, leave me a review, rate it, share with your friends. I need to get the word out. Um, so that would be super. And for those of you that have I so appreciate you. Okay. See you next week for more goodness.