It is a lifelong dream for many people to learn how to sing better and stronger. Who has not watched American Idol and yearned for a powerful singing voice like the contestants on television? By learning and practicing proper diaphragmatic breath control, singers can sing strongly and clearly – just like the pros.
Singers use their diaphragms to generate sound from the body. The stronger the diaphragmatic use, the higher the volume. Diaphragmatic control primarily affects singing and public speaking volume (though incidentally, it also helps with pitch and quality of sound as well). The source of the singer’s greatest strength is breath management and diaphragmatic control. It is the most crucial component to singing technique and the genesis of sound. This will make all the difference in whether the singer sounds like a little mouse or an American Idol.
Singers Make Sounds With Their Bodies
So, what exactly is the singer’s sound? Of course, any elementary science coursework will say that sound is a traveling wave, an oscillation of pressure composed of frequencies capable of being heard by the organs which sense these vibrations. How does the body create these traveling waves? Simply put: the sound waves are pushed out of the body and passed through the vibrating vocal cords.
More specifically, by breathing in deeply and then pushing the air back through the vibrating vocal folds, the singer creates sound waves which travel outside the body through the throat. As the stomach moves down and out with the diaphragm, the lungs are pulled down as well, creating a vacuum that air rushes into during inhalation. This is the correct way to breathe just before singing an extended note because proper diaphragmatic breathing powers the force of air pushed through the voice box. Thus, giving the singer’s voice more strength.
The Power of the Singer’s Diaphragm
The powerful muscle just under the rib cage called the diaphragm is also the singer’s protection against the vocal strain. While the vocal folds (also called the voice box, larynx, and vocal cords) are delicate folds of tissue that are easily injured, the diaphragm is a muscle which can regularly be exercised and trained during vocal lessons. Breathing exercises can be used as essential tools towards protecting the voice box from developing vocal nodes, polyps, or cysts – conditions the American Academy of Otolaryngology calls benign vocal cord lesions.
To isolate the diaphragm muscle, touch the bottom of the rib cage with the fingertips. Feeling where the center of the rib cage dips upward and inward into a point; the muscle just under the rib bones is the diaphragm. To become familiar with the diaphragm, practice the following movement 2-3 times without breathing; then begin to add inhalation and exhalation to the exercise.
A Diaphragm Isolation Exercise
Push the belly (and with it the diaphragm) down and out, then back in and up. Repeat. Next, inhale and exhale during the same movement. Be careful: most beginning students do this exercise in the reverse or opposite direction than they should. Inhalation should occur when the diaphragm is pushed down and out; exhalation should occur as the diaphragm pushes back into the torso. Looking in a mirror during this exercise is an excellent way to make sure it is done correctly.
This style of diaphragmatic breathing will feel awkward at first, but with practice will soon feel more familiar and prove to be a more efficient way of breathing for singing. It is essential to practice this method of proper diaphragmatic breathing daily.
The diaphragm is the singer’s source of volume. Lung capacity is greater when the diaphragm is used during inhalation, thereby allowing for greater singing strength. Expanded lung capacity through proper diaphragmatic breathing will make longer, stronger notes possible – the goal of any singer on stage.