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The Diaphragm Rip-off

So many singers tell me in their lessons “I know I’m not breathing/singing with my diaphragm.” It’s weird… there’s so much confusion around this topic, and yet every trained singer (and many untrained) recites this phrase almost religiously.

Vocal degree or not, it’s rare that someone can actually explain how the diaphragm works accurately. And if you don’t understand it, it will weigh you down when all you want it is to sing effortlessly.

So let me clear it up for you. The diaphragm is a band of muscle under your rib cage that acts like a bellows of sorts: it expands to suction air into lungs, and contracts to push air out. It does this over and over, whether you want it to happen or not. This is why it’s so hilarious when singers say “I need to breathe from my diaphragm.”

What else are you going to use… your liver?

The diaphragm could do it’s work even if you’re unconscious. So when we take something that was designed to be automatic, and we try to make it manual, we end up working too hard.

It’s true that you need air to sing, and it’s true that the diaphragm plays a part in getting air in and out. BUT that’s already happening for life. No need for extra effort there.

Now… what you really need to do is activate the PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES. When you sing without them, your voice could be weaker than you want. But if you add a pushing from the lower half of your body, your high notes will feel more sturdy. The sensation is like going to the bathroom, and the real trick is not to strain in the neck or vocal cords while this is happening.

Watch videos of some of the greatest singers’ live performances. They sort of “root down” through their lower half on those belty notes, and many times, they’re even looking down at the same time.

This movement definitely causes more air to squeeze out of the lungs at once, (with the help of the diaphragm,) but it’s a more concrete sensation: which gets a better result for singing with power.

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