When we tell a story or a joke at a party many of us know instinctively how to deliver it so that people are entertained. And the delivery of a particular line is set up by the kind of breath we take.
For instance, before the line “That might not be a wise move…” the breath might be sucked in quickly, through closed teeth.
Or before “Oh my goodness!” the breath comes in as a gasp.
Before “That is soooo sweet” the breath would be slow and soft – like an inwards sigh – and perhaps open-mouthed in the shape of an ‘Oh’.
If we want to deliver a line with excitement, the breath is taken in quickly. If we want tenderness, we breathe in more slowly and gently. Be careful to actually express the upcoming emotion during the breath though, or you’ll end up with an Energy Leak – just a slow breath, not a meaningful one. ( https://betterchoirs.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/magic-choral-trick-23-energy-leaks/ )
When we sing, something happens to make this basic knowledge fly out the window. It’s probably because we’re focusing more on taking in enough oxygen to keep us from passing out.
The trick is to spend time with the lyrics. We need to become the teller of the story. The specific emotions of each section or even each phrase need to be identified – so that even chorus members who’ve never had this particular experience will still be able to relate whole heartedly to the progression of emotion in the song.
Once the emotion of a phrase has been identified, we have a much better idea of the quality of breath that’s going to have to come before it.