Can you sing with your diaphragm? That’s a great question and it’s one that I get asked quite often by people who are interested in learning to sing better. The answer is yes but only partially, and only if you’re not using your abdominal muscles properly. If you think about it the way your diaphragm’s work is slightly different from when you sing with your lungs.
To understand why you can’t sing with your diaphragm, you need to understand how the lungs work. Inhalation occurs through your nose. This part of the respiratory system is called the bronchi. The bronchi expand when breathing and collapse when breathing out. Exhalation occurs through your mouth using the lungs. The soft palate also moves up and down while your jaw drops open (or your tongue falls to the back of your mouth).
Now lets think about when you can sing correctly without using your diaphragms. Well, as an exercise beginner it’s hard to exhale while you’re singing. You have to start with short, controlled breaths while getting into the right sing mode. This is usually achieved with some slow, controlled inhaling and exhaling.
Longer, stronger breaths generally happen with your diaphragms in place. This can be seen when you sing eternally or hold a steady breath for a long time. When you’re in this position your ribs are working far away from the heart and they have much more room to expand and contract. Think of your ribs as pistons in a piston ring, if they were in the correct position your engine would run much better.
The problem comes when your breath goes from long-short to medium-long and then back again. When this happens your ribs have to work even harder to maintain the same expanded and contracted shape. This sounds simple but can get quite painful for beginners. So, if you want to learn how to sing correctly and avoid this problem look at how you breathe when you sing.
Now we’ve covered the basics – the breathing part. Next we cover the muscle action involved in singing. Muscles in the chest and abdominal area (as well as the back of the throat) all move in unison when you sing. The muscles use diaphragms for support. So if you’re singing you need to make sure that your chest, diaphragms, and abs are relaxed. And if you sing without using your diaphragms, relax the muscles in the back of your throat so that you can sing more freely.