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Vocal Lessons: Breathing While Singing Harmony

When you’re singing with a group, it’s not the clothes that matter – it’s all about knowing when to breathe. In this sample singing lesson from the Online Vocal School, Jeannie Deva goes over some great tips for singing harmony in a group.

Properly timing where to take your next breath is very important in group signing, so we’ll also learn how to coordinate your breathing while singing harmony.

When you’re singing in a situation, not everyone will have good breath control, so don’t be surprised by singers who may not have mastered Jeannie’s advice about breathing. What this means for you is that other singers may have to take a breath before you, or you may have to take a breath before them. 

For phrasing purposes, there are naturally occurring places in songs where you can take a breath while singing without missing a beat. These breaks commonly fall at the end of a line or verse.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are other places where taking a breath can throw everyone off.  Jeannie teaches you how to can work in these quick breaths without messing up the group ensemble.

The first way you can do this is to “sing the pause”. This can be compared to speaking in a conversation. Although you may pause when speaking to gather your thoughts, you are not necessarily taking a breath during that pause. So, just because there is a moment’s rest in the music does not mean you have to fill it with a big gasp for air either.

To determine the precise best moment to take a breath, there are a few factors to consider. Lyrics and the meaning of the song determine the accents in the phrasing and which word should be emphasized. With that, the time of the breath can be determined.

For an example in a song, Jeannie Deva uses  the classic song “Lean on Me”, to demonstrate. Notice that she chooses to take a breath between the words “Lean on me,” and “When you’re not strong.” She recognizes that the message of the song is to lean on me, when you’re not strong. Note that her emphasis is not on the word “When”. So, she precisely places the breath right after the first phrase, then after “strong”.

Watch Jeannie's Free Vocal Lessons

If you breathe into your back and apply the rib cage expansion technique, which Jeannie also teaches in her online vocal lessons, it gives you automatic air control allowing you to sing longer phrases and make rhythmic choices without having to fill pauses with a breath.

To demonstrate the dynamics of singing harmony in a group, Jeannie  has one of the singers take a breath at a different time than the other two singers. When they sing the same line in this way, there is a noticeable change and the transition sounds much better. As long as the one person is silent and quick, this can easily be executed to give a nice transition during pauses with breaths.

If the breath is not silent, it typically means you are over-utilizing the stomach. This will make it come forward, cause your tongue to tighten, narrowing the opening of the breathing tube. This constricted airway will make a louder breathing sound than a fully open airway, so you would be wise to avoid it – especially when singing in a group.

Instead remember to relax your tongue, let the breath come into the back, and you will have enough air to carry on with the rest of the song.

There are more vocal lessons on singing harmony inside Jeannie’s online school, so be sure to fill out the form for sample lessons and visit for more information about how it all works.

vocal lessons singing harmony in a group

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