Many of us have heard people say sing from your diaphragm or sing from your gut. And I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up those phrases would frustrate me because I thought I was singing from my diaphragm. I mean you really can’t breathe without using your diaphragm. What they were really saying is support that sound with a good breath, and exercise good breath management and vocal placement.
As mentioned in Vocal Health Tip Number 3, good breath management is one of the foundation stones of good singing. Breath is the power supply or engine for singing. This post will talk about some of the benefits of good breath management. In addition, I will give you three exercises that will help you discover the muscles involved in breathing, and help you develop and maintain good breath support. I have also attached a video to accompany the exercises.
One of the many benefits of good breath management is increased oxygenation of the blood, which is great for the whole body, especially your heart and brain. Increased oxygenation helps the brain with memory and focus. It also helps to lower blood pressure, and as Kimberley Sanders from Revive and Renew Counseling reminded me the other day, deep breathing can relieve tension in your muscles and eliminate stress.
In addition to overall good health, good breath management can increase a singer’s ability to sing long notes and complete long phrases, have beautiful tone quality, control over dynamics, and sing with more rhythmic ease. Another benefit of good breath management is the singer’s ability to sing the right pitches. The following exercises will help you strengthen your diaphragm and develop good breath management.
The first exercise will make you more aware of what your body is doing during the breathing process.
- Lay down on the floor.
- Bend your knees and place your feet shoulder width apart flat on the floor.
- Feel free to put a thin pillow or book under your head so that your body will be aligned.
- Take a deep breath.
- When you inhale, you should feel your lower abdominal and back muscles expand. You should also feel the lower or floating ribs expand.
- When you exhale, try not to let your chest collapse as those same muscles contract.
- Repeat this exercise several times and pay attention to the movement of your rib cage, and muscles as you breathe.
The next two exercises focus on extending your breathe management or breathe control.
Exercise 2: “ss”
With your metronome on 60 bpms:
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Inhale for 4 counts, and exhale on 4 counts.
- Inhale for 4 counts, and exhale on 8 counts.
- Inhale on 4 counts, and exhale on 12 counts.
- Inhale on 4 counts, and exhale on 16 counts.
Exercise 3: “alphabet”
In this exercise you will really begin to figure out how much air you need to finish a phrase, or in this instance to complete a certain amount of repetitions of the alphabet.
- Speak the alphabet, from A-Z as many times as you can on one breath without letting your chest collapse.
- Repeat this exercise about 4 more times. Each time you repeat this exercise try to increase the amount of time you say the alphabet at a minimum of one more time, and pay attention to the adjustments you make in order to increase the amount of times you are able to say the alphabet.
Thank you for the privilege of accompanying you on your journey to better vocal health. Please leave any comments, questions or warm-ups that you’d like to share in the comment section below.