The diaphragm is a muscle at the bottom of your lungs. When at rest, it is curved up in the shape of a dome. Assuming you breathe in correctly, when you breathe in, your diaphragm drops and flattens to create more space in your lungs, pulling in air.
One of the biggest keys to singing well is to use your diaphragm for support. But since we’ve been using the diaphragm unconsciously our whole lives, how do we learn to use it consciously?
Well, lately I’ve been loving a specific vocal exercise from Jeanne Deva’s singing program, The Contemporary Vocalist. This exercise helps you figure out how to control your breath using the diaphragm rather than getting counterproductive control by squeezing muscles in your throat.
Here’s what it sounds like:
The key to this exercise is in the attack of the staccato notes. On one hand, you may be tempted to start them with an “H” sound. Don’t do that. On the other hand, you may find yourself wanting to start them with a glottal stop. Don’t do that, either. (A glottal stop is what you do when your cords are closed, and you let pressure build up behind them and they suddenly blow open. You say it in the middle of the expressions “uh-uh” and “uh-oh.”) Instead, keep your vocal cords relaxed and open, and gently and precisely control the flow of air from your body. It may feel like your belly. Doesn’t matter too much how you think of it, as long as the control is coming from your body rather than your throat.
This exercise is great regardless of whether you sing in a classical style or not. Many rock and pop singers I work with try to find compression and control by tightening their throats. That doesn’t work well, as they are usually well aware, and can cause damage. So this exercise helps them figure out how to, in a sense, “move” the compression and support they want, from the throat down into the body. You may want to put your hand above your belly button and check to feel that there is muscular movement there.
(c) 2011 Adrienne Osborn