As a singer, you might think that in order to be able to sing you will have to know how to sing high notes and how to sing in tune, although this is true but for beginner singers, the most important thing to learn is to breathe from your diaphragm. No matter what kind of voice you have or how talented you are, if you do not know how to use your diaphragm for singing then you are only limiting yourself as a singer.
You can sing from your diaphragm by breathing with it, strengthen it, warming it up, having a good posture, using passaggio, opening your throat, resonating properly, using your tongue and mouth correctly, knowing when to inhale and exhale during the song and by learning from the best.
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The diaphragm is a membrane right below your ribs and lungs, think of it as something like a balloon stretched from one side of your ribs to another. While you are inhaling with your chest, then you will notice that your chest inflates, when you are inhaling with your diaphragm then your stomach area will expand as the diaphragm also expands and allows you to inhale a lot more air.
So why is the diaphragm so important for singers? Your ability to breathe will directly impact how you can sing, that is why you do not see almost any successful singers who have some health-related issue to breathing. SInging need a lot of air, the more air you can inhale the longer and the better you can sing. If you are a beginner singer, then do not worry, as diaphragmatic breathing isn’t that hard to learn, and with just a couple of exercises, you will get the hang of it.
Once you will learn how to use your diaphragm to breathe you will have to also earn how to control it. Basically you will learn how to inhale and exhale in a controlled fashion as this will allow you to sing a lot better. If you are a beginner singer, then do not get discouraged if it doesn’t come naturally to you, it takes time till your diaphragm and the muscles controlling it becomes stronger, and once they do, breathing from your diaphragm while singing will come naturally. If you want to know how important is diaphragmatic breathing for singers then check out my recent article Why is breathing important in singing? ( Top 6 Reasons ).
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Breathe from your diaphragm
The first item on your to-do list is to actually know how to breathe from your diaphragm before you try to sing with it. This is fairly simple to learn, just lay down on your back and put one of your hands on your stomach, now simply inhale and exhale naturally. You will notice that instead of your chest inflating that your stomach is inflating if your stomach is inflating than you are doing it correctly.
If you are having trouble, then just imagine that there is a balloon in your stomach which you want to inflate. Just keep in mind to not apply any pressure with your hand on your stomach, instead use your hand to check if you are breathing from your diaphragm. Everybody can learn how to breathe from their diaphragm as it comes naturally, and you actually were using your diaphragm to breathe when you were a toddler.
If you ever watched a baby sleep then you have probably noticed that their stomach inflates, this is because they naturally use their diaphragm to breathe. Once the baby comes to an age where he or she starts speaking then they will slowly favor breathing with their chest, without even noticing. This is because our speaking voice is mainly used with our chest voice, and this is how most of us forgot how to breathe from our diaphragm. If you want to know the difference between singing by using your diaphragm and your throat then check out my recent article Singing from diaphragm vs throat ( Which one is better? ),
Strengthen your diaphragm
Knowing how to breathe from your diaphragm alone will not make you an amazing singer, you will have to strengthen it. The diaphragm is a thin muscle, similar to the muscles which are between your ribs. The good news is that you can make it stronger with a couple of exercises just as you can do with any muscle ad sooner or later your diaphragm will become stronger and thicker. If you want to understand what is the difference between a strong and a weak diaphragm then just imagine that your diaphragm is a balloon, which is made out of thin rubber.
When you are imagining inflating this balloon made out of thin rubber you are probably being careful as it might pop and that it doesn’t inflate all that well. Now imagine that your diaphragm is a balloon made out of thicker rubber, it will be harder to inflate but it will be a lot bigger once inflated than the balloon made out of thin rubber.
One of the easiest ways to strengthen your diaphragm is to practice diaphragmatic breathing just as I have mentioned above. Just keep on practicing like that for 2-3 weeks, every day for around 30 minutes. You might notice that your stomach area might hurt after a couple of days, this is normal.
After a couple of weeks, you can start using small weights, by weights I don’t mean dumbbells but something lighter. Just lay on your back and put a thick book on your stomach and keep on breathing with your diaphragm. During the time when you are making your diaphragm stronger, you should also practice singing, and you will notice how much better your singing gets in less than a month.
Warm-up your diaphragm before singing
It is vital that you warm up your voice before singing, but far too few singers actually warm up their diaphragm. Generally, speaking advanced singers do a multitude of warmups which usually is enough to warm up their voice and their diaphragm. As your diaphragm is a muscle you have to warm it up, just like any muscle group your would before hitting the gym. Just do some breathing exercises before you actually start to sing, 10-15 minutes should be enough.
Practice singing by using your diaphragm
Now that you know how you can use your diaphragm for breathing, it is time to combine the diaphragmatic breathing with your singing. For this, you will have to stand in front of a mirror, place one of your hands on your stomach and start singing, at first you will probably use your chest to inhale and exhale so you will have to focus on using your diaphragm. Just keep one of your hands on your stomach and this will allow you to check if you are truly using your diaphragm.
Try singing low and high notes in combination to see how much it affects your breathing and keep your hand on your stomach to check yourself.
Your posture will directly impact how much air you inhale, if you have a hunched back posture you will not be able to inhale as much air as you need for singing. The correct posture for singing should be the same posture which lets you breathe with your diaphragm as easily as possible. Stand up straight, shoulders forward and chin in a horizontal position, try it out and you will notice that you can inhale a lot more ai and you can actually control the airflow a lot better.
Use passaggio with your diaphragm
The passage is also called the transition, which basically means the time when you are switching from your chest voice to your head voice. If you are a beginner singer, I will simplify it, basically, when you sing lower notes you use your chest voice, and when you sing high notes you use your head voice, the “switch” between the two voices is the passaggio. To be able to do passaggio correctly you will have to control how you breathe from your diaphragm.
As a beginner singer you will probably notice a small break in your voice while doing this, don’t worry this is normal and with enough practice, the break will be a lot less noticeable, although it will never go away. If you want to know more about passaggio then check out my recent article How to switch from chest voice to head voice? ( 7 Easy Ways ).
Open your throat while breathing
One of the factors which will limit how much air you can inhale is your throat, far too often beginner singers who know how to use their diaphragm to sing tend not to open their throat and mouth open wide enough to let all that air come in. Opening your throat is extremely easy, just force yourself to yawn, but stop yourself right before you yawn, you might also hear some crackling sound in your ear, this is fairly normal and will eventually go away.
Just keep in mind that you can not do this with any song, as your breathing will be determined by the tempo of the song, and you will more or less be able to open your throat while singing.
This more for advanced singers although beginner singers should still know what it is and how it actually makes them a better singer. When you are singing you are in fact resonating, there are two common approaches when it comes to resonating, the first one focuses on the frequency and the second one focuses on the elimination of unnecessary frequencies. Both of them work, although if you are a beginner singer than you should first get the basics of diaphragmatic breathing before learning how to resonate.
Use your tongue and mouth
The placement of your tongue and the position of your moh determines what kind of wolves you produce, for example when pronouncing “ah” your tongue and mouth will have a completely different shape and position than when you are pronouncing “eh”. One problem with most beginner singes is that they will obstruct their airflow with their tongue or with not opening their mouth. To fix this, start singing in front of a mirror and notice what shapes your mouth makes and what is the position of your tongue, especially when inhaling.
Generally speaking, when you inhale, you should place your tongue below your lower teeth as this will allow you to inhale as much air as possible without your tongue obstructing the airflow.
Know when to inhale and exhale
When you inhale and exhale will be different from song to song, there is no magic trick, you will have to figure it out on your own. One of the easiest ways of know when to inhale and exhale during a song is by following the song’s tempo, you will get subtle clues like small pauses that you can use to inhale. Generally speaking, you should inhale as much air as you need for that part of the song.
You will have to have a fine balance of inhaled air and exhaled air, if not you might have to exhale right after you have sung a vowel and this will offset your tempo, and this is when you sound out of tune. On the other hand, inhaling too little air will make you go out of breath right when you are producing your sound, and it doesn’t sound good. My best advice for this part is to listen to the song several times and try to figure out what works best for you.
Learn from the best
Listening and watching singers who you like will make you a better singer, in addition to this if you have some difficulty with a song then it is always a good idea to also watch the singer perform it live. It is extremely important that the song is performed live and it is not a playback, now when you re watching them pay close attention when they are inhaling and exhaling especially at the part where you are having difficulty.
For a lot of beginner singers, breathing from the diaphragm is seen as some advanced singing technique. The truth is that breathing with your diaphragm is the base of any singer, and singers who do not know how to use their diaphragm properly will struggle and eventually give up. If you are a beginner singer and you find yourself running out of breath fairly often then the most probable cause for it is that you are not using your diaphragm properly.