Breathing from the diaphragm is a vital part to singing correctly. Said differently, the breath is the gasoline that fuels our voices. Without the proper breath, a singer isnâ€™t likely to progress very far. But explaining a process as abstract as breathing from your diaphragm isnâ€™t always the easiest thing. Thatâ€™s why I wanted to share a method thatâ€™s proven itself to be effective time and time again over the years Iâ€™ve been teaching this abstract subject.
First off, a student needs to know why they need to breathe from their diaphragm. I go into a little bit more detail on this topic in the article Breathing and Singing, but hereâ€™s the short version. In order to sing well, we must let out a consistent, steady flow of air, and we can only do this when weâ€™re controlling the breath from our diaphragm.
So, how do we do that? Well, when breathing from our diaphragm, we should experience an outward expansion all around the body in the lower part of the ribcage. You can check this visually by placing your hands on your lower ribcage. Then, when you breathe in, you should be able to see your hands push outward and away from your body (see picture for reference).
Once you show this to your students, take a few minutes to work with your choir on just this. Tell them when to inhale, then when to exhale, making sure that theyâ€™re focusing on and checking for that outward expansion all around their body. They should start to get the hang of it after a few breaths, but keep doing it for a little bit as building a new breathing coordination after years of habit can be awkward at first.
Now youâ€™ve got your singers breathing from their diaphragm, but this doesnâ€™t mean that theyâ€™re going to support properly while they sing. Remember, the whole goal of breathing from the diaphragm is for the singer to create a steady flow of air on which to sing. So, weâ€™ve got to make sure that our students are not just breathing from their diaphragm, but using the diaphragm to control the pace from which the air exits their body.
In order to do this, the expansion they feel while inhaling must be maintained. The goal here is to push out while exhaling, resisting the bodies natural tendency to collapse. Doing this will not only give your singers much more control over their voices, but it will help them create that steady flow of air weâ€™ve been looking for all this time.
So congrats! Now youâ€™ve got your singers using their breath properly. But just because they know how to breathe properly doesnâ€™t mean that theyâ€™re going to. Getting past old habit is really the hardest part of teaching breathing. To create a new habit, youâ€™ll need two things - time and consistent practice. So, be willing to take the time to go over this each time you see your choir for a month or two, even if itâ€™s only for a couple of minutes. Consistency is key. Do this, and youâ€™ll notice a distinct difference in the abilities of your singers.
I hope this helps! If you have any questions or would like to receive tips like this for yourself or to forward on to your singers, you can contact me through my Singing Tips Facebook Community.
Happy Teaching! Vocal Coach Ken Taylor