If you’re like most people, you probably don’t put much thought into how you breathe. You breathe in and out as you go about your day, without stopping to consider exactly how you’re breathing. However, the way in which you breathe can make a big difference in your communication. Proper breath support and control can mean the difference between a soft, weak voice that struggles to be heard, and a powerful, dynamic voice than commands the attention of everyone in the room.
Poor breath support puts strain on the vocal cords that can cause long-term damage which negatively impacts the quality of your voice. In addition, if you can’t sustain your breath support, you may end up stopping to breathe at moments in your speech that are not appropriate, or negatively impact your message. Luckily, you can train so that with a little bit of time and practice, controlling your breathing during speech will become second nature. Here are some exercises to help you develop breath support and control:
- Take a deep breath, breathing from deep within your abdomen rather than from your chest. Place your hand on your stomach and look in the mirror as you breathe in; you should feel your stomach expand outward as you inhale, and you should see no upward movement in your chest or shoulders.
- Take another deep breath using the same abdominal breathing technique, and then count out loud in a strong voice. Count as high as you can without sacrificing the volume or quality of your voice. Concentrate on managing your breath so that your voice remains even as you count. You should not feel any strain or discomfort in your throat as you speak.
- Take another deep breath from your abdomen and say “Ahh” for as long as you can, concentrating on keeping your voice clear, strong, and steady and along the way.
With practice, you should be able to gradually improve your breath support and to increase the length of time you can speak on a single exhale. After practice, you should aim for at least 17 seconds, with 22 to 24 seconds as a goal. While extending your breath support may take time, the improved vocal quality you will achieve is well worth the effort!
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