We have all heard it: diaphragm singing just makes you sound so much better and far healthier than singing from your throat. In fact, many people say that you should avoid singing from anywhere but your diaphragm in order to produce a full, rich sound.
Still, the question needs to be asked: how much of this is actually true? Can you really control your diaphragm? If so, how do you sing through your diaphragm? Keep reading through this article for answers.
Can You Sing From Your Diaphragm
Not directly, no.
But this body part provides breath support to help you sing properly. It uses muscles to force air from your lungs and then out to your mouth through your voice. Strengthen your diaphragm properly, and you can sing properly.
Your voice box is not the only organ responsible for giving you a voice and determining its quality. Certain parts of your body contribute to your voice quality, even the way you bend your knees.
Is It My Breathing?
Now that you know that you technically cannot sing from your diaphragm, the next you want to know is its relation to breathing. Yes, the way you breathe greatly impacts the way you sing. After all, your voice is simply a product of the way your body manipulates the air you breathe to produce sound.
Breathing from your diaphragm, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is something we can do automatically as infants. However, as we grow, we develop different breathing habits opting to use the higher part of our lungs to breathe instead of the lower. As a singer, this will cause you to have a weaker voice and a screech-sounding high note.
This is why it is important to rectify the way you breathe and learn how to use your diaphragm if you plan on improving your singing. Re-learning how to do diaphragmatic breathing through exercises is one way to do this! I will give you a few exercises that will help diaphragmatic breathing feel more natural later on so keep reading.
Diaphragmatic Breathing vs. Chest Breathing
What is the difference between diaphragmatic breathing and chest breathing (1)?
The only difference is that the latter makes use of your upper lungs. This causes your shoulders to tense. Like a chain reaction, this tension on your shoulders extends to your neck and your throat. As a result, your vocal cords constrict, causing you to strain more than you would if you knew how to use your diaphragm while singing.
On the other hand, diaphragmatic breathing makes use of your diaphragm, the muscle in your abdomen responsible for pushing the air out of your lungs. When you know how to control your diaphragm, you take in more air, letting you sustain longer and leaves your shoulders relaxed.
Opposite to how chest breathing works, a relaxed shoulder does not contribute to vocal cord strain. This allows you to sing clearer, richer, and fuller, giving you a great overall voice quality.
How to Do Diaphragmatic Breathing
So, how do you bring back those days when you breathe through your diaphragm? It is actually pretty simple. A word of warning though, diaphragmatic breathing is something that feels really strange when you first start doing it.
It is almost like being conscious of something you have not been all too aware of before (like how you can actually see your nose all the time but your brain just chooses to ignore it). It feels weird initially. However, with constant practice, it is possible to commit the process to muscle memory and learn how to control your diaphragm.
Here is how you do it:
- Lay on a flat surface with a pillow under your head to elevate it slightly. Then, bend your knees. Add pillows underneath for support if needed.
- Place one hand on your chest and another on your abdomen. Doing so will allow you to feel your body as you breathe. You should feel your chest relax and your abdomen do the work.
- Breathe in through your nose. Make sure that your chest or shoulders does not tense but allow your diaphragm to do all the work.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth and nose, feeling the way your diaphragm works to push the air out. You will notice that you do not need as much effort as you normally would when you use your upper lungs.
Once you master this, do it while sitting down. Then, while standing up.
Need help with this breathing exercise? Here is a video (2) you can follow that perfectly shows how you can do this easily. If you are interested in more breathing exercises that can help improve your vocal quality and sustainability, you can check this online tutorials for singing review.
How to “Sing From Your Diaphragm”
Now that we have debunked the myth about singing from your diaphragm, instead of learning how to sing from your diaphragm, I will give you some pointers on how to use your diaphragm to produce a better voice quality.
- Muscle Coordination
As I have mentioned, your voice box is not the only organ in your body that contributes to singing. It does play a major role, but your jaw muscles, tongue, lungs, diaphragm, and many others contribute to making your voice sound the way it does. Now that you are aware of all of the muscles crucial for singing, you must learn to coordinate them and have them working together without straining.
- Proper Posture
This not only gives off an image of elegance, grace, and confidence on stage but it also allows you to use all the organs and muscles needed for singing with relative ease. You can check this article I wrote about the proper posture for singers as well as how you can reach higher notes.
- Breathing Pattern
A great exercise to ensure you are doing this is to put the palm of your hand against the spot on your abdomen where your diaphragm would be. This allows you to feel the contraction and relaxation of your diaphragm so you can make sure you are breathing correctly.
- Relaxed Jaw
Make sure your mouth is open so you can project the sound well. In doing so, the sound from your vocal cords will have better acoustics as it bounces around in your palate.
- Relaxed Jaw
Diaphragm and singing go hand in hand. Diaphragmatic breathing can help you increase your sustained notes, range, tone, and even voice quality. This is why singers are encouraged to sing while breathing through their diaphragm. To make it easier for you to do the same and fully optimize your breathing, there are a few exercises that you could try.
- Put your palm an inch from your nose and mouth.
- Breathe through your diaphragm.
- Exhale slowly
- Notice the way your diaphragm moves.
Notice how you do not need to work too hard to push the air out of your vocal cords, making it easier for you to breathe? Afterward, you might notice that you do not feel the need to gasp for air.
- Stand in front of a mirror.
- Put your hands in front of your abdomen, make sure your fingers are clasping each other.
- Relax your shoulders and breathe through your diaphragm.
- Observe your reflection and make sure your shoulders and chest are not moving when you breathe.
This exercise helps you ensure that you actually use your lower lungs and diaphragm to breathe. It will also make sure that your shoulders and neck area is relaxed and you are not putting unnecessary strain on your vocal cords.
- Breathe in slowly.
- Be aware of the way your stomach expands as you do.
- Gradually breathe out
- Pay attention to the way your diaphragm contracts as you do
- Make sure you are not putting too much effort into pushing the air out
This will slowly train your diaphragm to not just expel the air you inhaled. This exercise will specifically help with prolonging your breath so that you can use it to sustain your notes.
In order to master how to use your diaphragm, you must do these exercises regularly. Once you have, diaphragmatic breathing will come naturally. You will also see an improvement in your singing quality!
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