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Q. Can you coach a vocalist to sound more ‘breathy’?

By Mike Senior

I’m working on an acoustic track and would like my vocalist to sing backing vocals in a more ‘breathy’ way — in other words, as per Messrs Gibb, although not in quite such a high register! Are you able to offer some vocal coaching tips that I can ask him to try?

What a  singer hears in his headphones can affect how he delivers his vocal part — and that’s something you can use to your advantage.What a singer hears in his headphones can affect how he delivers his vocal part — and that’s something you can use to your advantage.

SOS Forum post

SOS contributor Mike Senior replies: If he’s having trouble shifting into a breathy delivery style, it might help for him to think ‘whispering’ while singing. This doesn’t necessarily mean singing as quietly as possible, because it’s possible to sing breathily at a reasonable level, in much the same way a speech actor can ‘stage whisper’. To state the blindingly obvious, though, it does require more breath to sing like this, so the singer may well need to rethink his breathing patterns to allow for more frequent lung refills.

In addition, you can help from an engineering perspective by giving the singer a bit more vocal level than normal in his cans. This serves a dual purpose: he can hear what he’s singing without having to move out of ‘breathiness mode’; and he’ll be discouraged from opening up too much in terms of level (which is likely to reduce the breathiness) because it’ll otherwise feel over-obtrusive in his foldback mix.

Published September 2015