I don’t think there’s a singer alive who hasn’t been told to sing from the diaphragm! But what does that mean, and more importantly, is it an instruction you should even take any notice of?
Have you ever been told to ‘sing from the diaphragm?’ From my experience, it seems to be an age-old instruction that many singers associate with ‘singing well.’ But when I ask beginner students to locate their diaphragm for me, not only do most people not know where it is…they often don’t even know how it works or what it does.
So firstly, what is it? Well, the diaphragm is a rather large muscle, the second largest in your body actually, that literally separates your thoracic cavity, containing your heart and lungs, from your abdominal cavity; the lower half of your torso. The diaphragm has a dome shape and is often labelled as having two divisions: left and right. Unlike other ‘voluntarily’ controlled muscles, the diaphragm is connected to the autonomic nervous system. This enables you to breathe without having to think about it…even while you sleep. But of course, singing is a very conscious activity requiring intentional management of the diaphragmatic movements. So how does that all work?
Well, the best way to think about the diaphragm’s work is to simply ignore it! That’s right. You see, firstly you can’t really directly control the diaphragm. In fact, you’ll never hear me telling you to learn ‘breath control.’ The word ‘control,’ to me at least, suggests that the singer needs to learn to consciously move the diaphragm up and down, just like you choose to move your arm or your hand. No, we don’t have that kind of ‘control’ over our diaphragm.
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