In the previous article, How to Sing Like a Professional, I focused a bit on breathing techniques and how to sing from the diaphragm, foundational in building a solid start in singing, but it wasn’t quite elaborative. So, in this one, I will solely focus on it. This is specially written for those people who want to go deeper into it.
Get a Feel of Your Diaphragm
Your diaphragm is a soft and thin sheet of muscle inside just below the lower rib cage. It helps the lungs to take and eject air out. Unlike other meaty parts in the body, people aren’t really aware of its existence until it’s mentioned and explained. It’s a bit of a challenge to get a feel for it. Again, we don’t see it nor directly touch it.
Why locate? Because it would be much quicker and easier to train it that way, duh.
The diaphragm hides under the ribcage. That sneaky mysterious little thing in there. How do you know you have one? I’m glad you asked. Place your hands over the lowest pair of your ribs. Breathe in, and feel it pushing outwards. It wasn’t difficult, was it? Let’s try to do some experiments and be aware of its existence.
While breathing, push your hands hard going inwards. It became more difficult to get some air in, correct? Now, hum a very low tone and push your diaphragm with a sudden shove when your belly is fully expanded. Your hum’s volume and pitch became louder and higher, and it can be a bit uncomfortable to do it, but you know where I’m going, right?
In singing, volume and pitch can be controlled by the rate and quantity of expelled air through the vocal cords and the diaphragm is involuntarily responsible for it. Take note of these:
- Large amounts of air equal more volume
- Rapid release of air equals higher pitch
The diaphragm can significantly influence and manipulate those two aspects of the voice. Having better control of it, you’ll also have better control of your volume and pitch, as simple as that. Mastery allows you to have longer sustained tone, range, and resonance. And don’t think that it only helps in reaching glass-shattering tones. It can also aid in maintaining low tones and quieter passages with stability.
Diaphragm Breathing: We All Do It Unconsciously, But Singers Do It Intentionally
Before anything else, the diaphragm or thoracic diaphragm is the one responsible for respiration. You might think that it’s the nose, mouth, or lungs. The diaphragm moves by itself involuntary; basically, the brain handles how much it works behind the scenes.
To have greater control of the diaphragm, practice intentional breathing while doing other tasks. You don’t have to sing to get this exercise done. You can do it while you work, study, and even while resting. It can be distracting at first, but you can do it.
Push your diaphragm and belly outward to let the air in. Then squeeze them back in to expel the air out. Do this until you build a habit. It’s crucial to accustom yourself to frequently taking over its control from your brain. We’re only doing this exercise to be aware that it’s there working for us in private.
Remember not to get overexcited. Do this slowly. Abruptly pumping air in and out of the body can trigger the throat to cough. The sudden gust can agitate it, particularly the tonsil, and drops of water (saliva) can tickle it. I know someone who vomited because he expelled too much breath in an instant.
Do this basic breathing technique anytime. This exercise will also strengthen it to allow for instantaneous inhalation which is very much required if you have to sing in between very long-phrases in high notes in a fast temp. Other surrounding muscles that help in respiration will also be developed, which helps your cardiovascular system.
Increasing Lung Capacity
After getting used to diaphragmic breathing, we’re now going to increase lung capacity by fully expanding with as much air as it can hold. Again, the goal of this exercise is to feel a fully expanded lung to its full potential
Hold your breath until you feel you’re gasping for air. Then, exhale until the diaphragm is totally squeezed in and relaxed. Again, hold it out until your body starts to succumb by oxygen. Do this drill slowly while gradually building up speed with quick breaths like a panting dog.
Be cautious not to overdo because depriving yourself of oxygen for a long period of time is something your brain and body wouldn’t want to go.
Strengthening Your Diaphragm
Just like with your biceps, triceps, and abs, the diaphragm requires stress to grow and become stronger, but raining it to respond naturally is another goal.
Watch a panting dog. A dog doesn’t have to know what is right to be able to do it right, right? Did you catch that? Learning how your mechanism works is important but applying it naturally in performance is the ultimate.
Commercial break: For some fun moments, you might want to record a video of you doing these exercises. You don’t have a camera for singing? Well, let me tell just leave a link to my Zoom Q2N-4K review. *wink* *wink*
Breath in and out in small increments fast. Open your mouth and close your nose. If done correctly, you’ll sound like a dog that has been running all day tired but inside that front belly wall, our diaphragm quietly executes its function.
Another strengthening technique is the poop push. I’m not making this up! I swear! Still, remember the last time you did number 2? Yep. It will make your diaphragm drive your bowels down as if you’re delivering a baby (poop for guys). Breathe in some air and make your diaphragm thrust downwards instead of outwards your body.
Lastly: The straw sucking method. It sounds a bit normal now, isn’t it? You don’t require a straw for this, tho. Now, try to imagine drinking a glass of water without the straw and water.
This time, inhale and exhale using the imaginary straw. Your diaphragm muscles will have been defied, but you will feel that something down there is being put to the test and you’ll soon find that it indeed does its job.
Fine Tuning Your Diaphragm
At this point, we’re going to do some vocalizations and see how we’ve come so far.
Let’s do C major scale on the vowel “Ah” in ascending and descending directions, be aware of the diaphragmic breathing we’ve discussed. Stay in the key of C for now for this vocalise.
Vocalization trains the diaphragm how much strength it requires to exert on every note of the scale. If it’s too complicated, practice with your mouth and throat fully open. Don’t worry about articulating any words. Let out your voice and make sure you’re hitting the right notes.
Now, do the scale again, but in legato. This is a term in music to indicate a smooth transition from one note to the other. For guitarists, a legato is akin to the slide technique. It’s a technique wherein one starts with one fret of a string and slides his finger upwards or downwards to another fret.
You’ve done an excellent job reaching the end of this article! This is just one of the steps you need to take to become a pro. Stay tuned for other foundational skills to further your goal of becoming a pro. Moreover, if you have any suggestions or questions, always feel free to drop some comments below.
On the other hand, you can check out some of the other singing tips I have or browse the online singing classes I reviewed.