Updated: Apr 29
Singers are constantly told "to sing from the diaphragm"; what does it really mean? How can you achieve that?
There is a lot of confusion about how to breathe correctly for singing. We are told: "Sing from the diaphragm!" But wait; aren't we always using the diaphragm to breathe and sing? Yes, indeed. And herewith comes the confusion on how to engage it intentionally for vocal support. The diaphragm is an upside down half sphere muscle attached to our lungs. It is responsible for regulating the air we breathe. It acts like a vacuum sucking in the air during inhalation and sending it out during exhalation. During singing, we are trying to slow down how quickly it comes back up by sending pressure against it to keep it inflated. Here are 3 exercises to help you achieve this easily. I like those 3 exercises because you can't really do then wrong. Breathing should feel natural and comfortable. So should diaphragmatic support during singing. Always imagine filling your lungs from the bottom up when you breathe expanding your lower abdomen first. During singing we keep our belly out but we don't push our stomach out. Relax! Keep your shoulders steady (without getting stiff) so that they don't raise exaggeratedly.
1) Blowing Candles On A Birthday Cake
Take a deep breath. Blow candles on your imaginary birthday cake. This is what proper support feels like. All your breath pressure is sent down. Your abdomen is contracting while your diaphragm stays expanded. Empty your lungs completely.
2) Stuttering Snake
Take a deep breath. Exhale on "S" then pause without breathing in again. Repeat until the end of your breath. Try once more putting your hands on your waist this time. Feel your abdomen coming in an out. Make sure to relax while you pause. Remember to push down, not out. Do this on one breath only until you run out of air. Listen for any unwanted sounds coming from your throat; this is a sign of tension. Relax your throat until all you hear is the hissing.
3) The Wind
Take a deep breath. Start hissing softly then louder like the sound of the wind. Increase your downward push as you approach the end of your breath. Soft, loud. Soft, loud. Soft, loud. There you go.
If you need more help, you can find some of these exercises in the media page of my website (an oldie but a goodie). Scroll down to the Vocal Tips section:
If music is life, more so is breathing. By practicing these exercises regularly, your diaphragm will start engaging correctly and intuitively during singing. We increase our support to sustain a melody, sing higher, improve projection and hold a long note. Experiment with these and see your breath capacity expand exponentially. Your voice will be more solid, stronger and louder.