Thanks in large part to the terrible techniques we listen to every day from pop music, it's very common that the amateur singer doesn't know how to adequately breathe when performing. From my experiences with choirs, these seem to be the 5 most common breathing mistakes that are easily remedied.
- 5. Exaggerated Breathing - I once had a choir teacher tell us "When you fill a car with gas, the car doesn't puff out and draw attention to the fact." Many singers will raise their shoulders or do other motions as though the excess movement helps them to breath deeper. Guess what? It doesn't. If anything it adds more tension in the larynx and restricts the expansion of your rib cage.
- 4. Breathing Too Shallow - When speaking, we don't need to fill our lungs completely to finish a complete sentence. We tend to sing the same way and only take deep enough breaths to make it through one or two short phrases. Make sure you do what you can to keep your breaths full and complete. Breathing exercises are there to help you learn the difference between breathing when speaking and the breathing requisite for singing.
- 3. Noisy Breaths - Have you ever noticed how loud pop singers' breaths are on recordings? It's usually louder than the singing itself! Loud and noisy breaths are indications of tension in the pharynx or your tongue being in the way of air intake and tend to prevent you from taking a full breath in a short period of time. You can take a much fuller breath much quicker if it's silent.
- 2. Breathing Too High - Take a deep breath and pay attention to what part of your torso moves the most. If it's the chest then you're breathing much too high in your body. Deep breaths should distend your stomach. I know, you're worried about looking not-quite-so-fit, but if you focus your breathing to your upper chest only then you restrict the expansion of your lungs and you will never get as much air in one breath. Allow your diaphragm to do its job and live with a larger than normal stomach for a few seconds.
- 1. Not Enough Air - It seems ridiculous to mention, but I have to remind people constantly that if you need more air - have some! When you get to the point that you're forcing the last bits of air out of your lungs then you need to just take another breath. If you get really good at it, you can breathe in the middle of words (with practice, of course ;)). The point is to never let yourself feel like you're about to pass out simply because you think you need to run a marathon on a single lung of air. Singers have good lung capacity, but it doesn't need to be that good.
There you have it, simple but powerful. More breath means more breath support which means more power behind your singing! Don't sell yourself short.