Most of you have heard of “sing from the diaphragm” or diaphragmatic breathing during the singing. Basically this simply means that the ideal way to control your breath is to engage the diaphragm more fully. Well, we can’t simply tell our diaphragms to work harder, or better, or more efficiently. This usually just causes the singer take in way too much breath and creates tension in all the wrong places.
So, back-up and realize that your diaphragm is already doing its’ job. It is simply moving down when you breath in and coming back up when you breath out. This happens automatically.
A great way to engage and exercise this process for better singing is with the help of visualizations. This can be tricky because what works for one, may not work for another.
Step #1 – Check out your habit of breathing now when you sing the chorus of your favourite song. (It’s a good idea to sing in front of a friend or family member to get an honest opinion of what your body looks like when you are singing). Did your shoulders and upper chest rise? Are you taking in a huge amount of breath? Do you feel “something” in your neck and throat area? If any of this rings true, then understanding your breath and taking the time to focus “down yonder” is very important.
Start by lying down on the floor on your back in a relaxed state…..just as you would before you fall asleep. Notice your stomach moving up and down. If you don’t see this just slow down and take the time to “feel” this. It can be a very small sensation. You may be tense and don’t even realize it. Singing can cause an effort or energy level to exist high up in our chest area, so it may take a moment for your relax enough to connect with your abdominal area. It will happen….slow down and be aware.
I’m going to call this belly breathing…but obviously you are not breathing from your belly. A visual that may help you with this is that your belly is a small balloon (SMALL to start), and you are filling it up from your groin area. (I know this may be seem ridiculous so bear with me).
Tap into this groin and lower abdominal sensation as your breath. Now can expand or “enhance” this sensation? Can you make your belly expand further with the intake? Imagine your inhale and exhale is narrow as it would be when you drink through a straw (again you are filling from the bottom up). If you get lightheaded or feel out of balance, that is normal. Just regroup and do it again. You will eventually find a rhythmic balance where you can manage the inhale and exhale of your breath, as if through a straw, and filling your body from the groin area.
OK, now you need to stand up and get that sensation again. Yes, it is more challenging so slow down and take your time. These small awareness steps are huge in the path to better singing.
Breathing is a natural act, so this should never feel forced or tense. Instead teach yourself to relax and “allow” these sensations. Tap into your awareness by using the above visualizations.
Now go have dinner….but with the same breathing sensations. This is a breathing awareness you need to visit all day long.