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How To Breathe For Singing: Why Breathing With Your Diaphragm Doesn't Work

breathing vocal technique Jan 26, 2021

Good breathing technique is essential for power, volume, consistency and vocal tone. It also plays a role in matching pitch consistently and staying in tune. Breathing impacts a TON of things when it comes to your singing! 

How To Breathe For Singing: The Myth

When you think about how to breathe for singing, what is the first thing that you think of? Is it something like “you have to support from the diaphragm?” Ok, great...so you may be thinking HOW do I support with the diaphragm? 
 Here’s the thing...while your diaphragm is involved with how to breathe for singing...it is not the key player. Medical professionals actually disagree on if the diaphragm can be directly controlled. What do I mean? Let’s say you want to move a finger...you don’t think too hard about it. But what if you want to move your diaphragm? How do you know you are actually moving your diaphragm and it’s not just your stomach? Well, you don’t.
I want to be able to control my singing directly and most of the singers that I work with want that too...I bet you do as well! So let’s talk about the diaphragm.

The Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that is attached at the bottom of your ribcage. When you breathe in - the bottom of your ribcage spreads apart, your diaphragm sinks (creating negative air pressure) and your lungs expand downward. The diaphragm’s movement is just an effect of breathing. So how can we control our breathing more directly?

How To Breathe For Singing: The Solution

Your external intercostals are your new best friend.
Your external intercostals are the way that you can control your breathing directly. These muscles are between your ribcage and responsible for inhalation. Since breathing is involuntary (our body does it without thinking) these muscles don’t get too much attention and our regular day-to-day breathing is not as athletic as our singing. That means that it might take a while to get these muscles working to our advantage. If we can control the inhalation and the expansion of the ribcage, our diaphragm will act automatically to create the negative pressure that we need for flow phonation. (A.K.A good singing that is not strained or breathy.) 
 

How To Breathe For Singing: Your First Steps

 
If you came into my studio to start working with me we wouldn’t even focus on the technical aspects of breathing right away. Why? Would you put gas into a car that doesn’t run or doesn’t start? No! It’s a waste of gas. We need to make sure that the car will start and drive down the road before we add more gas.
In the same way, singers need to learn how to use and manage the air that they already have before adding more. For this, I recommend my Strong Singing Foundation which includes releasing the breath, timing the breath, and monitoring your airflow through some really fun vocal exercises. (They are super simple too). Learn more about the strong singing foundation that I teach singers here.
 
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