One of the cornerstones of learning to sing is knowing how to breathe correctly and learn to control your breathing , so that it is used to optimum effect when you sing.
When we are born, our breathing is naturally correct: babies can breathe, yell and scream with optimum effect because they use their lungs without conscious thought. As we grow older, we tend to get lazy and only use the upper part of our lungs, taking shallow breaths as required, rather than a deeper, more natural breath.
To understand how correct breathing and breath control works, first you need to understand the process that breathing involves:
Inspiration (breathing in)
At the bottom of your lungs there is a large (upside down bowl shaped) circular ring of muscle called the diaphragm.It attaches itself to the lower rib cage and spine.During inhalation the tendon at the bottom of this muscle contracts and the diaphragm is pulled downwards, gently displacing the stomach and intestines.. Air is drawn into the lungs via the nose and mouth.Inside the lungs, a gaseous exchange takes place where waste carbon dioxide from the body is exchanged for a fresh supply of oxygen by the blood travelling across the very thin membranes of the lungs.
Exhalation (breathing out)
After a few seconds, the diaphragm tendon relaxes and the diaphragm slowly moves back to its original position, pushing the (waste) air out of your lungs.
Breathing is essentially an autonomic reflex, in that your body does it without you having to think about it. How fast you breathe depends on your oxygen requirements. However, you do have control over your breathing, enabling you to hold your breath, speak a sentence, or sing a song. This ultimately is learning how to control your diaphragm.
Find your Diaphragm
Gently place your hand on tummy, just under your rib cage. Now pant like a dog a few times. You should feel your hand gently being pushed as you pant.
If you hold your hand to your mouth and breathe out slowly, the breath should be warm and moist. You should also feel the action of the diaphragm as you exhale. This is the correct amount of breath used when singing normally.
A singer does not need to ‘force’ or‘push’ air through the vocal cords to produce a good strong sound – doing so only creates too much pressure against the cords, which in turn, prevents them from operating correctly, which can lead to damage to the voice.