Breathing for Singing – Diaphragm inhibition
Have you ever heard the phrases…
‘Sing from your diaphragm’
‘Use your diaphragm when you sing’
What do these mean exactly? I would like to clarify the role of the diaphragm and give you a few tips on breathing for singing.
The diaphragm is a large double domed shaped muscle that separates your upper and lower body cavities. Above it are the lungs and the heart and below are your other organs. At rest the diaphragm resides up and under your lower ribcage – much higher than most people imagine. When it contracts two things happen
- It acts upon the lungs, pulling them downwards and causing a vacuum, which naturally draws air into the body
- It exerts downward pressure upon the abdominal area and forces the lower body to expand
This gives the illusion that breath is being drawn in very low and hence you may have come across the term ‘belly breathing’ as a result. Just for clarification, it isn’t really possible to distribute the breath to the lungs anywhere but centrally as the bronchial tubes enter the upper middle of each lung. It is okay, however, to visualise a’low breath’ when breathing for singing.
Do NOT Sing from the Diaphragm
Watch This Video for Breathing for Singing Exercises
Hold Your Breath
As the diaphragm draws air into the body, the intercostal muscles help to expand your floating ribs. The overall feeling should be one of expansion around the middle and lower body. Your fixed ribcage will elevate slightly also as the lungs become fuller. The idea now is to maintain that feeling that you experience while you sing. Think of it as holding the air inside your body without closing your throat. This volume of air will become your support for your voice as you sing.
Leak the air out
As you start to sing, maintain that expanded feeling you had at inspiration. The key to achieving really powerful high notes is expert breath flow control. You keep the air pressure in the lungs and maintain the expansion of the ribs to STOP THE DIAPHRAGM from returning back to its resting point. The natural will of the diaphragm is to relax back to its original place and if you allow that to happen then you are no longer in control of your airflow but your diaphragm is.
The negative effects of allowing the diaphragm to dictate the outbound airflow are:
- increased air speed
- loss of support
- increased resistance in the throat – constriction
- a tight sound with little resonance
- an inability to access the higher register