by Ramesha Nani
I think we can all agree that breathing correctly is an important component of a good singing technique. Breath is the motor that makes it possible for the vocal cords to produce any sound.
There’s a lot of literature out there that claims that in order to be able to sing, all you have to do is learn the right breathing exercises (diaphragmatic breathing) and everything else will fall into place. Wishful thinking…It’s sort of like saying that if you learn the correct breathing technique you automatically know how to play trumpet! You can have the most perfect diaphragmatic breathing and still not be able to sing. On the other hand, if you learn how to place the voice correctly, you will automatically also breath correctly.
What do we mean by “breathing correctly”?
The diaphragm is the most efficient muscle of breathing. It is a large, dome-shaped muscle located at the base of the lungs. Your abdominal muscles help move the diaphragm and give you more power to empty your lungs. When you inhale, move your stomach out, like a balloon that’s getting inflated. When you exhale, tighten your stomach muscles and pull your stomach in.
It is easier to be aware of this mechanism while lying down on you back. Place your hands interlocked on your stomach and feel your stomach move out against them as you inhale and then fall back inward as you exhale.
In singing, feel that your breath is coming from your abdominal area, rather then your lungs. Don’t just expand you chest when you inhale, but feel your stomach going out and then gradually feel it come in as you sing (exhale).
Some people who are by nature more soft-spoken might find it helpful to practice the following breathing exercises separately from the actual singing in order to strengthen their diaphragm and abdominal muscles.
1. Lie on your back on a flat surface or in bed. Interlock your hands over your belly. Inhale slowly through your nose and feel your stomach move out against your hands, like a balloon that’s getting inflated. Now tighten your abdominal muscles and exhale through your mouth, making a sound like “Tsssssssss”. Feel your belly under your hands move slowly back down toward the floor. Repeat several times. Stop if you feel you start to feel dizzy!
Once you’re comfortable doing the exercise while lying down, try it while sitting upright on a chair.
2. Another breathing exercise that is good for strengthening the diaphragm is known in the Yoga tradition as Kapalabhati Pranayama:
“Draw the diaphragm inward sharply, forcing the air out through the nostrils in quick thrusts. Let the inhalation take place automatically; all of your effort should be spent in the exhalation. Each respiration should take about one second to perform. Do this exercise 12 to 24 times to begin with – then more, as you become accustomed to it.”
~ From The Art and Science of Raja Yoga by Swami Kriyananda (J. Donald Walters)
Feel free to contact me about any singing-related issue or doubt that you might have. I will do my best to help you find a solution for it.