Ok, so far, you've learned about the first two vocal secret weapons: #1- water and #2- the articulators. Today I will discuss the final and most critical vocal secret weapon. This weapon will literally make or break you as a singer depending upon how you use or don't use it.
I hope all the singers reading this have already figured it out.
Vocal Secret Weapon #3: The diaphragm (Did you guess right? If not, that's ok. Read on, friend.)
This singer is most definitely using her diaphragm!
When I say diaphragm, I am talking about the muscle underneath your rib cage that separates the chest from the abdomen and aids in breathing. If you don't already know is now, breathing correctly is very important in singing. When you learn to pull in the abs when singing, you will engage the diaphragm muscle. Using your diaphragm in singing will improve your breath support, tone, vocal power, etc. That I can guarantee. Failure to use your diaphragm can help you prematurely kiss your singing voice goodbye. Scary, huh?
Here's the problem: so many, many singers think singing is done from the throat up. I seek to shatter this misconception once and for all!
Singing is a full body experience! You should imagine the sound shooting straight up from your firmly anchored feet and coming straight up through the top of your head.
Your throat and vocal cords cannot handle the strain of singing heavily day in and day out. They are not built to do that. But, if you pull the power of the sound from your diaphragm, you remove the strain from the throat and cords and increase the longevity of your voice. Your diaphragm can handle strenuous singing. Use it!
In my book, The Complete Book of Beginning Vocal Technique, I define the diaphragm as "your singing muscle". It is probably the single most important factor in determining how long you'll be able to keep up singing. The first question I always think to ask when someone tells me they're having trouble with singing is, "Are you using your diaphragm?"
Now that you know what the diaphragm is and why you should always use it when singing, I'm going to tell you how exactly to know that you are engaging the diaphragm. Here are some basic stretches that will help you feel the diaphragm at work:
1. Stand with feet hip-width apart and take a deep inhaling breath while raising arms in a circle. Stop the inhale when your arms are fully lifted. Pause a moment, then exhale as you release your arms back down to your sides. Do several of these exercises, working to pull the stomach towards the ribcage as you inhale. Notice how the stomach feels at this moment when it is fully engaged. This is how it should feel when you are singing correctly using your diaphragm.
2. Raise elbows and arms to a table-top position. Gently twist from side to side while pulling in the abs. Notice the deep contraction of the abs as you twist. This is what you want to feel when you are singing.
3. Now, try singing through any song and make a conscious effort to engage the abs as you sing. When you are correctly using your diaphragm, your throat should feel open and your tone should sound free.
The trick to making singing with the diaphragm a lifelong habit is to consciously make an effort to engage it every time you sing. Soon enough, you'll automatically engage the diaphragm and get the added benefit of a freer singing voice.
I hope you've enjoyed my mini series on vocal secret weapons. More importantly, I hope you're using them! As always, post a comment if you have any questions and I will get back with you. Thank you again for reading and happy singing!