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Learning to sing from the diaphragm is extremely important to proper singing technique, and in this article we’ll show you exactly how you can start to sing from it like a pro.
Why is learning how to sing from the diaphragm is essential? Because to really sing powerfully we need a steady, consistent flow of air.
That’s where the diaphragm truly shines. Read on to understand how, why and what you can do today to improve your technique.
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What is Your Diaphragm
You diaphragm is a muscle located right in the center of your chest, spanning the lower rib cage. When you inhale or exhale breath, it expands and contracts to allow air into and out of the lungs.
Starting to see why it’s so important to singing?
When you use your diaphragm to sing properly, you have much more control of the air supply moving through your vocal cords, and therefore you have much more strength to project your voice.
Once you learn to use your diaphragm, it’s important to do vocal and breathing exercises that help to strengthen your use of this important muscle.
How Your Diaphragm Works
When you inhale air the diaphragm contracts and flattens. That motion actually creates a vacuum-like effect that pulls the air into your lungs.
When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes itself and that pushes the air out of your lungs through your mouth or nose.
There’s a nerve called the “phrenic nerve” that runs from your neck to your diaphragm which controls the contracting/relaxing movements.
It’s not all about breathing, but we won’t get into it’s other functions since that’s all we really care about for our purposes.
Since your diaphragm regulates the air in your lungs (and thus how much air you can use and how much you can project your singing voice), it’s super important to strengthen it and utilize it properly.
How to Find Your Diaphragm
It’s a bit difficult to feel your diaphragm and therefore not easy to locate. Why do you need to find it? Because you want to be able to “feel it working,” while doing breathing and singing exercises.
- stand up straight
- use your hands and find the bottom of your rib cage
Your diaphragm is basically right there, wrapped all the way around your torso, separating your chest from your abdomen.
Or try this if you still can’t feel it:
- lie flat on the floor
- put a large book right above your stomach area
- now inhale and see the book move down
- now exhale to push it upwards
That muscle that’s moving the book is your diaphragm.
Using Your Diaphragm to Sing
To effectively sing using your diaphragm, you need to get good at breathing through your diaphragm.
That means strengthening that muscle and practicing how you breath.
That’s not the sexiest answer to the question of “how do you sing with your diaphragm” but it’s the best answer.
Basics to Remember
The first thing you want to remember is that whether or not you’re singing from your diaphragm, your throat is being used all the time.
Your throat (and vocal cords) creates the resonance that produces the sound of your voice.
What you need to watch out for is tension. When you’re NOT singing with your diaphragm, you often feel tension and strain in your throat.
That’s not good.
And don’t underestimate the importance of your posture when singing.
Standing up straight makes it so much easier for your body to cooperate with you when you’re singing. Also, it helps to know your natural vocal range.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind before we start:
- make sure to relax your entire body – arms, shoulders, head, neck, throat, stomach
- stand up completely straight – posture is key for optimal air flow
- don’t tuck your chin or push it up/out – keep a neutral head position
And remember to always warm up your voice before you start doing any singing.
Steps to Diaphragm Singing
- Stand up straight and tall with your shoulders down and head relaxed
- exhale the breath in your lungs
- inhale through your mouth deeply until your lungs are full of air (your stomach should expand and protrude out)
- now sing a note using a vowel or consonant sound (i.e. “oh,” “ahh,” etc)
- as you’re singing (using the air in your lungs) “push” the air out and “suck” your stomach inwards (internally)
That’s how you sing using your diaphragm.
If you’re having trouble with posture, stand up with your back against the wall. Your head, shoulders, back, butt and feet should be touching the wall – but remember not to strain yourself.
You have to be relaxed.
Pay attention to your shoulders, as well. They should stay down – don’t let them move up as you breathe in.
If you’re having trouble felling the “push” on your stomach as you exhale/sing, put your above your stomach (on your diaphragm) as you sing. You don’t have to push with your hands, but that should make it easier to feel yourself “pushing” that air out.
Another important tip is to make sure you’re “opening” your throat fully when you start to sing. To practice this, stand in front of a mirror and pretend there’s a ping-pong ball in your mouth. That’s how wide your throat should be – again NOT straining, though – when you’re singing.
Strengthening Your Diaphragm for Better Breathing
Now that you know how to sing using your diaphragm and what it should feel like, you need to focus on getting better/stronger with it.
There’s a couple of things you can do, but the most important one is just to practice breathing in and out using your diaphragm.
That should be easy, now that you know how to use it correctly!
Here’s a specific diaphragm breathing exercise you can practice:
- put a straw in your mouth
- wrap your lips around the straw so the only air that gets in is through the straw’s opening
- put a hand on your stomach
- slowly inhale air through the straw (keep your shoulders relaxed!)
- focus on feeling the air in your stomach
- slowly exhale the air through the straw
There’s a lot more when it comes to breathing exercises and you can get some great ones in our favorite online training for singers.
What’s next? Well that’s up to you. You’re obviously interested in becoming a better singer and that’s GREAT!
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And if you’re interested in trying some really structured singing lessons then we recommend taking a look at 30 Day Singer!
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