Times might come when you’ll feel you don’t have enough air to finish singing a word. You know that there is no way on this earth that a choir can sustain a 6-bar note after having already sung the phrase that leads to it. Or is there?
But before we answer this question, let’s talk about what choirs shouldn’t do when faced with such a dreaded note. Never, ever, ever stop dead on your tracks to take a large breath before the concluding word just to make sure you have enough air. Not only does this interrupt the continuity of the piece, but it sounds out of place as the seemingly impressive final note highlights the difference with the preceding melody. And the audience will notice.
Most skilled and educated conductors will guide you through the score before rehearsing it and let you know where to add more breaths if the existing ones are not enough. There are many a times, though, that a choir might perform this gasp, the worse being when the choir breaks a word in half to take a breath before the final syllable.
So, what there is to do? Fortunately, this is one of the privileges of singing in a choir. Your fellow buddies are always going to be there to help you. With whatever air you have left, starting singing that final phrase or note without any interruption. Then take a quick breath as your section mates continue to sing.
Make sure that after your breath you continue singing with the same intensity as before. If your section is composed by only a handful of people, talk to them about this. They will, also, want to take their quick breaths at some point. Just make sure it’s not the same time for everyone.
So, yes, there is no way on earth that one singer could sing and sing and sing on one breath, but a choir works as a team and choristers get by with a little help from their friends.
In case you’re singing solo, do this trick used by all famous opera singers, Pavarotti was actually known for taking advantage of this all the time.
When you feel you don’t have enough air to finish your phrase strongly or finish it period, conserve air by singing the final notes as piano as possible. Then, make sure you DON’T start the next phrase with a large and impressive note to make up for it. Just like with singing in a choir, starting with such a note will showcase the weakness of your previous notes.
Instead, start steadily and with the same volume (piano) and quality that you finished your previous phrase. Develop the new phrase slowly by singing a controlled crescendo.
The effect is going to make the audience feel goosebumps and commend you on your perfect command of your voice. And all the while, you’ll have turned a weakness into a strength!