13166: Breathe Easy

Hey there, hero!

This one is worth listening to without the distraction of video. Wear headphones or earbuds, seat them properly and listen.

And, I’m gonna warn you. I tear up a bit in this podcast episode.

Because of the power of human breathing.

How breaths are used run the gamut from comedic to tragic to frantic to romantic.

And I’m on a mission to give you a permanent permission slip around your breaths, as a part of your work that needs to remain, and not be deleted.

De-breathing plugins. Not a thing you need.

Disagree? Agree? Breathing heavily over this subject? Let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Hear, hear! When a narrator isn’t heard breathing, it can make the audience uncomfortable… and they might not even know why.

    I’ve also noticed that some narrators and voice actors are *excellent* audible breathers. Their everyday mid- or post- or pre-sentence breaths aren’t too labored or too quick; they’re just beautifully timed, don’t bleed into or out of sentences or images, and complement the tone and structure of the writing.

    It’s hard to describe, but it’s the best kind of soundtrack: the one we don’t know we’re hearing.

  2. This was such a good topic. I had a publisher once ask me to make my breaths quieter. So, I played around and discovered that my breaths are quieter when I sit down and record (less projector-presenter-ish). That request encouraged me to analyze my acting/storytelling rather than get into software fixes. I might de-amplify a breath here and there, but I keep them in!

    I’m listening to an audiobook now narrated by Meryl Streep. She’s so good that having no breaths doesn’t make me uncomfortable…. but as a narrator, I wish her producer had kept them in.

  3. Couldn’t agree with you more. My wife and I both teach theater acting, voice for the stage and voiceover. Breath couldn’t be more important and is intimately tied to emotion and meaning. It sounds so weird when there’s no breath. I’m always surprised when students think they need to eliminate that sound. They are relieved to learn that it’s essential- on stage, on camera and in VO.

  4. This is one of my favorite things you’ve ever posted about! ALSO! Breath is what distinguishes us from AI and that is a great thing in and of itself. Our breath is the foundation of the work we do and it should not be diminished in the finished product.

  5. As to where it came from, I’m thinking it started with 30-second radio spots, where every second costs money, and the thought is that taking out the breaths increases the emotional energy of the spot. But I’m with you; taking them out for anything longer than that (and really, even for that) ruins the performance. I’ve even heard long-form content like podcasts where all the breaths have been removed, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re utterly unlistenable. I have unsubscribed from several podcasts and YT channels because of it.

  6. Agree 1000%!!! The only time it’s a problem is when the breath wrong for the narrative situation. For instance, someone has a VERY audibly sharp and intense intake of breath when the narration or action has no intensity to it. Probably mostly occurs for new narrators who are nervous, and so their breath is reflecting their nervousness as a narrator instead of the timbre of the narration or action in the text.

  7. I love breaths!
    As to how the “let’s get rid of breaths” movement started…I bet it was the same people who think emotions are bad because they refuse to feel them. It makes them uncomfortable.
    Thank you, David, for always speaking these beautiful truths.

  8. I agree – it tells the listener that you’re alive and well. As a singer, when recording, I had to be mindful of taking big breaths up on top of the microphone. But this makes sense when reading as a storyteller. Gives a realistic and natural touch to it all. Thank you for fighting the good fight!