Breathy Singing - Is It A Good Or Bad Technique? Tuesday December 13 2022, 2:30 AM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
Breathy Singing - Is It A Good Or Bad Technique?

Breathy Singing

Singing in a breathy tone can come with pros and cons. The main reason people stylistically choose to sing with a breathy voice is that it can sound good when it comes to the emotion behind a vocal performance.

If you're trying to sing sweetly or with a sexy voice, breathy can work extremely well.

But can breathy singing be bad for you? Turns out, singing in a breathy tone is basically the same as talking with a loud whisper, which can be damaging to your vocal cords.

Let's briefly go over what some experts in the medical field have to say about speaking and singing in a breathy tone. 

Breathy Singing And Your Vocal Cords 

When we speak or sing at normal levels, our vocal cords vibrate, which keeps the muscles in our voice box healthy and resonating.

But when we whisper or give a breathy tone, the vocal cords do not vibrate, and this can cause dryness, leading to irritation. 

In an article penned by Dr. Isaac Namdar, M.D., he states that "Whispering actually requires special muscle contractions in order to modulate our voices from their natural state. Typically, this could be just as bad as yelling or shouting."


Secondly, those who whisper have been shown to squeeze their vocal cords in a traumatic way, according to Dr. Adam D. Rubin from the Michigan-based Lakeshore Professional Voice Center. 

But it is important to note Dr. Rubin stated in his study of 100 patients and their vocal cords that:

"Although whispering involves more severe hyperfunction in most patients, it does not seem to do so in all patients. In some patients, it may be less traumatic than normal voice."

The third problem with whispering is that many people don't know how to do it correctly.

I, along with many others, am guilty of whispering too loudly to try to get a message across, which does more harm than a very soft whisper that another person may not be able to hear.

According to Lesley Childs, M.D., who specializes in Otolaryngology, "When most people whisper, they want to be heard, so they strain to produce sound. It can be as bad for your voice as shouting." 

Tips For Singing Breathy 

Singing breathy is not something that will automatically break your vocal cords, so don't fear that it shouldn't be done at all if you're a singer. Here are some tips for singing in this tone without doing much damage that will wear down your voice box.

Related Post: How Long Does It Take To Get Good At Singing?

Sing Close To A Mic

To lessen the harshness that hits your vocal cords when you try to whisper or sing in a breathy tone, you can try singing at a softer volume, which may require you to get closer to a microphone in order to be heard during a performance or recording. 

Do note that this is not a fix for the problem, and it is only a way to make the damage to your vocal cords lighter.

You are still intently whispering, no matter how soft your tone is, because you need to be a bit harsh with your whisper in order to actually sustain a note. 


Mix It Up With Vocal Fry

Vocal fry is the lowest form of your register that you can access by lightly making a rattling sound on the vowel "uhhhh" for example.

Approaching your lyrics with vocal fry adds an element of flavor to your tone, similar to breathy singing, but without the potential harm to your voice. 

According to Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist, Lee Akst, M.D., "The vocal anatomy is not damaged by speaking in vocal fry. However, like any behavior, vocal or otherwise, it can become a habit." Using it here and there shouldn't do you much harm!

Related Post: Cursive Singing - What It Is And How To Do It

Use Breathy Singing Sparingly 

My main tip is to use this technique sparingly. If you happen to be in the studio doing a cool adlib once or twice and rarely do this, it's likely that there won't be any effects on your voice at all.

If you want to do one performance in a sexy, whispered tone for your significant other on a special occasion, it probably won't hurt at all. 

But suppose you're a touring musician who's constantly gigging and rehearsing while making breathy singing a daily habit. In that case, you may be at risk of going hoarse very often or doing even further damage to your vocal cords over time. 

How To Stop Breathy Singing

If you find that your tone is breathy when you sing and it's not exactly the sound you were going for, here are some tips that can help you get rid of that breathy tone and get a fuller, richer, and pure sound coming from your vocal cords.


Vocal Warmups

One of the best ways to get rid of a breathy voice is to do vocal warmups. Singing scales, humming, and lips trills are all healthy ways to give your vocal cords a stretch without asking too much of them.

Check out some videos and techniques I have for vocal warmups on this page. One of the videos directly combats the phlegm that is often present in our vocal cords early in the morning. 

Throat Coat Tea

Tea is another good way to combat a breathy voice, and it works wonders if you're looking for a fast fix that will hydrate you at the same time. Singing can get really unintentionally airy, especially in the middle of flu season. 

The best tea on the market for clearing your lungs is called Throat coat tea (available on Amazon), but there are several teas out there for you that will do the job.

Many teas aimed at fighting colds and other infections also work really well for morning voice. Just be sure to avoid teas with caffeine. 

Vocal Steamers

Vocal steamers are a newer way to get rid of a breathy voice if you're a singer, especially if you are trying to get rid of that extra air in the morning. It's very similar to what steam from a shower can do, but it can be done on the go for a touring musician. 

Vocal steamers use natural water vapors to soothe your voice, and it only takes about 10 minutes to do per session, so it's a pretty fast option similar to tea.

These can be a bit costly but worth it if you're always singing or speaking. Get more details on the pros and cons of steaming on my Vocal Steamer blog post


Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

If you are in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her services page.

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