Tip of the Month

Some Observations on Breath Control

Many of my students come to the table with little understanding of the breathing process in conversation, and consequently, when they read a script aloud, they don’t identify with the natural process of pausing and breathing.

When you end a phrase or a sentence, be sure to pause comfortably and take your time before going on. Take careful note of what impact your statement will have on the listener. If it has intensive impact, the pause will be longer. Example: “As I watched, soldiers, killed over a thousand unarmed people in the streets.” This sentence will have a powerful dramatic impact on the listener, and to make it maximally effective, you will need a long pause for the listener to absorb it. A more ordinary statement will require a short pause.

Example: “He was born in Penobscot County, Maine. His life growing up was comfortable and pleasant.” The pause after Maine is relatively short, as this is not a heavily dramatic sentence. Remember that these differences are incremental, as dramatic moments differ in mood and tone by steps.

Pauses are very important in other ways, as they can not only give you time to breathe, but can also allow your mind to keep pace with, or stay ahead of, the script.

Moreover, it is very important to keep your breathing quiet and unobtrusive, as any kind of gasp for breath will become obvious and annoying to the listener. The recording process tends to amplify this, as there is more “edge” on your voice on a recording than in real conversation. When you practice breathing, try to open the back of your throat to take out all of the medium to high pitch in your breathing. Above all, be very relaxed when you breathe. Tension is a handmaiden of noisy breathing. It can also affect your pace and make you rush.

More on breathing in future Tips.