What is the first thing you think about when someone talks about the diaphragm?
We know that it can be the cause of hiccups. If you take a chest impact, a deflated diaphragm can make it hard to breathe.
What would happen if you could inflate your diaphragm when singing?
You’d get the opposite result of compression! The air support coming from deep down inside would help project your voice to every corner of the room.
If you learn how to sing from your diaphragm, you’re almost guaranteed to improve your singing voice.
Why Should I Be Singing from My Diaphragm?
When you take vocal lessons for the first time, most teachers talk about singing from the belly, gut, or diaphragm. Although they call it something a little different, they’re all talking about the same thing.
If you sing more from your diaphragm than your lungs or throat, you’ll have more control over your breathing.
Some teachers disagree with this singing methodology. When you press instructors on the techniques needed to hit the best notes, the descriptions are almost the same as what you’ll hear when learning how to sing from your diaphragm.
Instead of getting into a battle of semantics, this singing guide takes you through the different steps you need to follow to learn the skill of singing. You’ll find ways to improve your breathing, keep your vocal cords supported, and strengthen your vocal dynamism.
You don’t need to use your diaphragm for singing, but you’ll find it is less stressful on your vocal cords if you do. When you sing from your throat alone, the larynx becomes artificially constricted.
It might seem like it is easier to reach high notes without the diaphragm, but you could be risking the health of your vocal cords by using that technique.
Steps to Follow for Singing From Your Diaphragm
When you take a deep breath, are you using your lungs only to support your singing? The diaphragm muscle can push your vocals to new levels because it helps you control each note's quality, tone, and consistency.
If you can strengthen this muscle, you can sing melodies that you once thought were impossible! Scream singing, opera, and more are almost impossible to do without diaphragm support.
These steps can help you to know how to sing from your diaphragm with confidence.
1. Locate where your diaphragm supports your voice.
It takes a little practice to find your diaphragm. You’ll locate the dome-shaped muscle near the base of your lungs. Even though it gets used for every breath you take, the activities it offers go mostly unnoticed.
As the air leaves your lungs, your diaphragm relaxes the intercostal muscles. This motion allows air to escape while stabilizing your core to create the singing sounds you want to hear.
If you force the air out faster through more abdominal pressure, your voice’s sound quality improves.
Most adults do the opposite. They tend to draw the stomach into their body instead of activating the diaphragm. This process creates a slimmer body profile, but it also forms a weaker core.
You cannot expand the lungs as much by drawing in your stomach. If you’ve learned this habit, you’ll need to unlearn it to sing from your diaphragm.
2. Start breathing into your diaphragm.
The easiest way to start singing with your diaphragm is to become familiar with how your body processes air movement.
If you learn the diaphragmatic breathing technique, you'll come away with four crucial benefits that help your singing voice.
· You will strengthen the diaphragm muscle.
· It will decrease the work it takes to breathe, slowing your overall rate.
· You’ll notice a decrease in oxygen demands from your body.
· It becomes easier to breathe, and you’ll receive more energy with each breath.
You can perform diaphragmatic breathing exercises while sitting in a chair or lying on the ground. Please choose whichever method supports your body the best.
You’ll want to start by sitting or lying on the floor comfortably. Your neck, head, and shoulders should feel relaxed while keeping your knees bent.
It helps to keep the shoulders back so that your spine can stay aligned in its natural shape.
Place one hand on your upper chest while having the other just underneath your rib cage. You’ve got the correct placement when you can feel the diaphragm moving when you breathe.
Start the exercise by breathing slowly through your nose. You should feel your stomach moving out against your hand.
Complete the exercise by tightening your stomach muscles quickly, allowing them to fall inward as you exhale through pressed lips. You want the hand placed on your upper chest to remain still during this entire process.
It is not unusual for this step to make you feel exhausted at first. After a couple of weeks with consistent practicing, you’ll notice that diaphragmatic breathing becomes an automatic technique.
Try to practice for at least five minutes each session, up to four times daily, to get the fastest results.
3. Begin to expand your lung capacity.
How long could you hold your breath right now? The average person can do it for 30-60 seconds without much difficulty.
Can you hold your breath for two minutes? Have you reached the three-minute threshold yet?
The human body is an incredible tool that can help with your vocal training. The world record for holding one’s breath is currently over 24 minutes.
Even if you don’t get an oxygen-aided chance to bring air into your lungs, it is possible to hold a standard breath for over 11 minutes.
The same exercises that freedivers use to hold their breath for a long time underwater can help you with your singing lessons.
If you can hold your breath for up to 60 seconds now, you can get up to three minutes in 30 days when you exercise your lung capacity. If you’re already at 120 seconds, you can reach five minutes with ongoing practice.
These steps will help you achieve the results you want to see with your singing.
· Prepare your body for breathing exercises. When teaching your lungs to expand their capacity, it helps to relax your mind, muscles, and breath. If you get tense, your body diverts oxygen to those areas. Anything that feels calming will help you build a foundation for success.
· Take three breaths. Use the first breath to inhale about three-quarters of your full capacity. On the second one, exhale everything. When you reach the third, take in as much air as possible to hold it.
· Stop the air from escaping. Most air escapes through the back of the throat instead of the lips. Every time you exhale, you lose oxygen. That’s why you need diaphragm and core strength to prevent its loss. When you give these muscles a workout, you’ll notice improvements in your vocal training almost immediately.
· Reduce the urge to breathe. This step is different for everyone. Try to take your mind off of the fact that you’re holding your breath. You could think about your family, the dreams you have of becoming a singer, or a favorite trip you took as a child. The goal is to stay in this mindset for as long as possible to stop oxygen from escaping. Once you reach your limit, release and breathe normally until you feel recovered.
· Incorporate aerobic and anaerobic training. When you push your body to the point where you can’t suck in enough air, your body burns glycogen and phosphates. Anything that delivers short, intensive bursts will give your diaphragm the extra strength you need to become a better singer.
· Eat healthy foods. When you want to support your singing health, you’ll want to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and any artificial stimulants. Try to eat a healthy, well-rounded diet that includes plenty of water.
4. Incorporate lip trills with your breathing exercises.
If you want to become a better singer, one of the best exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine is the lip trill.
The best way to describe this physical movement is to replicate the sound of a car while only letting your lips buzz.
As you release air, you’ll feel vibrations move your lips rapidly. It helps to keep your tongue down around your bottom teeth if it tries to move up during this exercise.
If you have trouble generating lip trills, it helps to tighten your cheeks and embouchure to reduce the places where air can hide.
Although it might feel a little silly to incorporate this activity into your vocal practice, it teaches your body how to breathe more efficiently. The movement places pressure along the vocal folds so that you can extend your range.
It's also nearly impossible to hurt yourself when using this technique, making it a safe way to work on singing from your diaphragm.
5. Complete a full warmup.
Before starting any vocal lessons, you'll want to complete an entire warmup to ensure that your vocal cords are ready to sing. This process allows your diaphragm to get prepared for the exercises you're about to do while hitting those notes.
Some singers like to use breathing exercises as their warmup while slowly singing the notes within their middle range. Take your time as you go through the lowest notes to the highest ones to avoid straining.
If the environment is a little cold, it sometimes helps to drink some warm water to loosen everything. You’ll want to avoid a large meal before singing since your body will divert more oxygen to the digestive processes instead of your singing voice.
Here are some of the best vocal warmups to consider adding to your routine.
Benefits You’ll Receive When Using This Technique
This warmup places minimal strain on your vocal cords. If you place your tongue’s tip behind your bottom teeth while moving up and down the major scales, you’ll feel everything start loosening in a couple of minutes. Use “h” sounds to maximize the benefits of this process.
Instead of humming through your lips, you’ll use a straw to complete your warmup. Begin this technique at the lowest end of your range while progressing upward slowly and methodically. For a more robust result, try humming into a glass filled with water.
For this warmup exercise, you’ll yawn while keeping your mouth closed for as long as possible. Once your air is in, exhale it through the nose like a sigh to relax your vocal cords and open your throat.
When you sing, it helps to drop your jaw lower than when you talk to create your vocal expressions. Since those muscles need a warmup, loosening everything from your ear to where you need it to be can help your singing. If you don’t feel pressure on the hinges underneath your ears, you’re only dropping your chin.
This technique lets you warm up your diaphragm and vocal cords simultaneously. You’ll go from the bottom to the top of your range with each note, replicating the sound of an emergency siren. The goal is to make the pitch glide as much as possible while creating continuous tones for as long as you can.
If you select this warmup technique, you’re following a process that in Italian means the “act of carrying.” You’ll slide to the next vocal note in your range while skipping the sharp or flat half-steps to create the results you want.
Although you can sing from your diaphragm without a complete warmup, you won’t always get the vocal presentation you want.
You don’t need to complete all of the warmups listed here, but it helps to choose at least two of them to help your voice and diaphragm get ready to sing.
6. Find the correct posture.
If you sing with your shoulders hunched forward and your chest above your stomach, your diaphragm doesn’t have much room to work. Even if you have strong muscles there that can help you project your voice, the stance you’re using naturally limits how long and deep your breaths can be.
When you learn how to sing from your diaphragm, it is crucial to create a foundation where power and simplicity coexist. This outcome happens when you keep an unobstructed air passageway.
Unless you must sit, it is better to stand when you sing because your body naturally supports deep breathing from this position. If your mother told you not to slouch as part of having good manners, she was right with regard to singing.
If you are sitting, you can still follow these additional techniques to get the most out of your diaphragm for each note.
· Keep your feet about a shoulder-width apart with knees slightly bent to prevent locking. If you stand straight up, you’ll lose oxygen support to the brain, which can cause you to faint in the middle of your class or performance.
· It helps to have your shoulders remain relaxed throughout the entire process. They should stay rolled back to support the natural curve of your spine.
· When you take in a breath, send the air as deep into your belly as possible. You want your chest to expand as your stomach presses outward to maximize the impact your diaphragm has on the singing process.
Even if you take online classes to improve your singing without anyone watching you, having the integrity to follow these guidelines will help your vocal cords produce more dramatic notes.
7. Keep your throat open when singing.
After you’ve discovered your diaphragm and worked to increase its strength, it is time to maximize the airflow that happens through your throat and lungs. Your vocal cords require consistent, rapid movements to and from that muscle to create the voice projection you want when singing.
For many people, it helps to practice singing in the mirror or on a real-time video display from a computer or smart device when learning this technique.
Some teachers say that you should imagine having a table tennis ball in your mouth that prevents you from closing it entirely. Other tutors use the “banana-turned-sideways” description to encourage more openness.
When you can achieve this outcome, you’ll notice more resonance in your voice.
After you get used to that feeling, you can modify your singing voice by changing your larynx positioning. Three primary options are available for these adjustments, although you can choose half-steps between them to create a custom vocalization.
Benefits of This Larynx Position
This action squeezes your vocal cords so that you can reach higher notes and pitches. It’s what you do when you want to start singing with a falsetto voice. Although you can achieve some fantastic results with this method, it also puts a lot of stress on your singing voice. The tension can eventually lead to damage if you don’t get enough rest between lessons or performances.
Middle (Neutral) Larynx:
When you speak, your larynx is in this position naturally. It isn’t too open, but you aren’t squeezing it closed either. You’ll want to use this option for most of your warmup. It’s also where you get the majority of your vocal tones when singing within your natural range.
You would choose this option when you purposely sing notes lower than what you would naturally reach. When you yawn and feel your throat open, that’s the feeling you’re replicating when using this technique. This effort leads to deeper sounds and more projection, but you don’t want to overdo it because the results won’t feel natural to the listener.
You can certainly sing with your diaphragm without opening your throat. The results won’t be the best you can do, but it will sound serviceable for the average practice session or performance.
If you want to achieve the best possible outcome, combine singing from your diaphragm with a smile and these techniques to create impressive results.
8. Get to know your voices.
The reason why you want to understand the raised, middle, and lowered larynx is because you have three singing voices.
· You have the one that comes naturally whenever you sing in the shower, in the car, or to yourself when you’re working.
· There is the singing voice you use when striving for the high notes in a song.
· The third singing voice is what you have when you head down the scales to reach the lowest notes in your maximum range.
A fourth singing voice exists in your mind. It’s the one that you hear when a song gets stuck in your head, and you sing along silently. This option works well for visualization techniques, but you don’t use your diaphragm when it is engaged.
For the three singing voices that other people can hear, you’ll want to make some distinctions between them for accuracy.
If you sing the lower notes as loudly as the high tones and pitches, you won’t create as dynamic of a sound. It’s also much easier to go off-pitch when you have less breath support for the upper register.
You’ll want to ease off on the low notes when singing by consciously adjusting the airflow from your diaphragm.
9. Practice your singing articulation.
You'll notice that some consonants and vowels are more manageable to sing than others once your diaphragm gets involved.
It is not unusual for singers to recognize this fact right away. After trying to make their voice sound smoother, those that continue to hit these harder tones tend to make them inaudible to create audible improvements.
Any words with “t,” “b,” and “p” create vocally explosive sounds. If you don’t control them in the music, you might even see some spit flying with the lyrics.
When you place your tongue’s tip to the roof of your mouth for some sounds, you can get a similar result. Any words with “sh,” “ch,” “zh,” and “f,” can create some problems.
On the other end of the spectrum, “s” sounds tend to be the ones that disappear first for listeners because it gets lost in the melody or accompaniment.
You don’t want saliva-covered listeners, but you don’t want to stay so quiet that your singing becomes inaudible. Where can you find a compromise?
If you practice singing with articulation while supporting those efforts from your diaphragm, you’ll discover more softness for the hard consonants. It’s also easier to slide through the other sounds to create smooth vocalizations.
Here are some ways that you can practice your dictation so that your articulation can start improving.
· Practice saying some tongue twisters rapidly. Everyone has a moment when they intend to sing something specific, but it comes out all wrong. It’s usually worth a laugh since we all do it, but you don’t want to make it a habit. One of the best phrases to practice articulation is this one: “I slit the sheet, with the sheet I slit, because I sit on the slitted fitted sheet I slit.” If you’re not careful with your pronunciation, your listeners might hear something entirely different.
· Study lyrical phonetics. Schools teach phonetics until about the third grade, but then it stops for advanced spelling and grammar. As a singer, you want to keep learning what vocal techniques can help you create clear syllables and sounds within songs. The International Phonetic Alphabet is an excellent resource to have available for this work.
· Spend time practicing problematic consonants and vowels. Each singer has some vowels and consonants that they master immediately and others that struggle to get better. If you find vowels are the issue, try attaching different consonant sounds to them while cycling through the various combinations. Try to be patient and forgiving of yourself while slowly and clearly emphasizing each one. As you get better, you can start increasing your speed.
· Let your mouth get some exercise. As strange as it sounds, a strong jaw can help you become a better singer. You’ll have more control over mouth shape and placement while promoting more openness in the throat. These five exercises can help you achieve progress in this area.
· Learn how to breathe strategically. You don’t breathe after each word because the vocals would sound stilted and unnatural. If you don’t have enough support to finish a phrase, the end lyrics can feel forced, go off-pitch, or get lost in the music. Each song has a natural rhythm where breathing happens, and producing more sounds from a single diaphragmatic breath will help your voice sound more natural through extended phrases.
Please note that if your doctor has given you a TMJ diagnosis, you'll want to follow your treatment plan first. When appropriate, you can incorporate these additional methods to avoid experiencing pain when working to become a better singer.
Are You Ready to Learn How to Sing from Your Diaphragm?
When people ask me about singing, I'll tell them straight-up that anyone can become a world-class singer.
Although some people see singing as a natural talent, I believe it is a skill you learn.
You can take online singing lessons, pick up the skills intuitively, or practice at home when no one is watching to understand what your voice needs.
More practice will lead to better outcomes when you follow the correct processes and structures, as it does with any skill. That's especially true when you start working on how to sing from your diaphragm.
When you select a vocal training regimen, you can tell right away if the lessons are useful because diaphragmatic breathing should be part of the learning process. If you cannot correctly support each note at the correct resonance, the skills needed to support your efforts are not getting taught.
That's why I think you'll appreciate my approach to singing with power. It doesn't matter if you believe you are a lost cause or already have the skills you feel can lead to your future success. When you join my online classes, you'll also become part of our collaborative community where we help each other get better.
I guarantee that my online vocal classes are competitively priced with local lessons.
We all have a journey that requires a first step. When I wanted to pursue singing, I had to start from scratch. When you learn how to sing from your diaphragm with me, we’ll work hard to develop your skills together so that you can keep moving forward.