A breath mark is a symbol found in sheet music that indicates a place where a singer can take a breath in a way that won't take away from the performance or the lyrical delivery.
Breath marks usually look like high-placed commas, as shown below, or can be written as a checkmark to indicate a good place to take a breath.
Most of the time, breath marks are used in classical styles of music, but I like to use breath marks on lyric sheets in any genre when practicing songs that I've written or songs that have been written and need to be referenced by me in the studio.
It especially comes in handy with new songs in phrases that I can easily forget the best place to breathe at.
Breath marks can also be extra helpful for rapping as well. I write and recite raps from time to time, particularly in projects that call for a sing/rap style.
While the word-heavy phrases I come up with can be great, they can also be hard as hell to get through in a way that makes sense with my breathing.
Breath marks are often added to the end of a phrase, but sometimes the song you're singing would benefit from connecting a phrase, so it can be put in between two words that won't sound too awkward.
You never want to put a breath mark in the middle of a word, even if the word is spread out across many different notes.
A breath mark will likely take away from the length of the note right before it, so you want to be sure you don't take away from an important note and/or word that really stands out in your song.
You also want to be sure that the breath is quick; the pause should barely be noticeable to the listener when you're singing.
Breath marks in rap can easily have a need for placement way before the end of a phrase, so I like to put them in places that make sense with comma marks when I'm typing and checkmarks when I'm writing by hand.
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If you want to put a long pause in your song, consider using a pause known as the fermata, as shown below. A fermata is a long pause that adds dramatic weight to a sung phrase, often towards the end of a song.
The general pause, the long pause, and caesura are three other less common pauses.
While the first two are for longer pauses (the general pause and long pause are interchangeable), the caesura is a quick pause similar to a breath mark that doesn't necessarily need an actual breath.
Sometimes, a caesura with a fermata symbol above it is used to signal a very long pause.
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In conclusion, breath marks are valuable tools for singers and rappers to navigate their performances effectively.
Whether you're a classical musician, a songwriter, or a rapper, incorporating breath marks can greatly enhance your delivery and ensure seamless breathing during performances.
Breath marks are typically placed at the end of a phrase, but they can also be strategically positioned between words to maintain the flow of the song. It's important to avoid interrupting important notes or words, ensuring they don't detract from the overall impact of the performance.
By understanding and utilizing breath marks and other types of pauses, musicians can optimize their performances and deliver their songs with precision, enhancing the impact and quality of their music.
As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 200 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Her recent collaborations include work with PBS Sound Field, Tribe of Noise, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!
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