Nose vs Mouth Breathing?

Weekly Teaching Tip – Aug. 17, 2015
by John Henny

Nose VS Mouth Breathing

It’s an epic battle, long debated by singers and voice teachers.

Should you breathe through your nose or mouth when singing?

The argument for the nose is a good one – the air takes a longer path before it crosses the vocal folds, and during this path a few beneficial things happen.

The air is warmed by the body, it is moisturized by mucosal tissue and it is cleansed by the microscopic hairs (cilia) in the nasal passage.

I have seen voice teachers adamantly proclaim that breathing through the nose is the only way it should be done.

Warm, moist, clean air – my vocal folds will surely love this.

And they do, except for one problem.

Who among us is able to breathe in through the nasal passages quickly, efficiently, and silently – especially during allergy season?

There are days when breathing quickly through my nose for singing would be slow, difficult, and extremely noisy.

Also, when we breathe through the mouth, it sets up our larynx in a better singing posture.

The larynx and back of the tongue will naturally drop and the mouth is open and ready to make music.

When breathing through the nose I have to close the mouth, take the breath and reopen the mouth completely, and then get it into the right acoustic configuration for singing.

Sometimes there is just not enough time between phrases to do this.

But now I’m getting cold, dry, dirty air.

What to do?

How about both?

When not singing, breathe through the nose. This will keep the vocal folds better hydrated.

Breathe through the nose between sung lines – getting all the benefits of the better air, but when it’s time to sing, breathe through your mouth, getting all the benefits of quick air, and an open, ready-to-sing mouth.

This way you get the benefits of both methods, while basically eliminating the negative.

Happy breathing!

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  1. Good article Dean! It often is the doubt I had when I taught some years ago. I solved it with my intuition, but now after your article I found out that it was right! Thanks

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