How to Sing from Your Diaphragm

Learn how to sing from your diaphragm from vocal coach Cari Cole in this Howcast singing tutorial.

Hi. I’m Cari Cole. I’m a celebrity vocal coach and artist development expert. And I help artists find their voice, craft their music and create successful music careers. I’ve worked with Donald Fagen from Steely Dan, Courtney Love from Hole. I’ve worked with the band Journey. I’m gonna teach you how to be a better singer and performer.

So, I’m gonna teach you an exercise for how to sing with your diaphragm. Now, I can’t go into all the details here, and it’s a bit more complicated than I’m gonna show you. But for a quick peek into how to use the diaphragm, and what the diaphragm is, this is gonna help you understand the subject.

So, the diaphragm is a muscle that’s inside the rib cage, okay? So, here’s one side of your rib; if I had another hand it would be over here, right? The diaphragm is inside that rib cage. The diaphragm doesn’t have any nerve endings, so we can’t feel it. So, it causes a lot of confusion for singers, or wanna be singers, when we start talking about singing with the diaphragm, because it’s not a muscle we can feel. But, we can control its movement by the surrounding muscles.

So, when the ribs open, the diaphragm has room to go down. When the ribs are too tight and locked, so it has a lot to do with your breathing, of course; when the ribs are too tight and locked, that diaphragm isn’t gonna go down. So, of course, breathing and learning how to open up the middle of the body, not breathe up into the chest, but breathe down into this area, right here. And it really is 360 degrees around the body that you want to move, when you breathe. This is how you start to control that diaphragm movement, and get it to move down.

Now, when the diaphragm moves down, it pulls air into the lungs. That’s why so many people, when they take a deep breath, they do this, and they breathe into the upper chest. Singers have to keep the chest lifted, elevated slightly, more than normal and then reach down below the chest, for the breath. And this is how we get that diaphragm movement going, like so.

So, for those of you that are very tight in this area, particularly dancers have a hard time with this, because they’re always tucking their stomach, or for those of you that have very tight abdomens or work your abdomens out a lot, this is going to be a little bit tougher for you. So, with this hand that’s being place on your upper stomach, I want you to apply more pressure in the areas that don’t move. If your ribcage doesn’t move or your upper stomach doesn’t move or your back muscles where my thumb is wrapping around to, if any of those areas feel tighter than normal, apply more pressure. So, if your stomach feels tighter, apply more pressure as you breathe.

So, I just want you to keep that chest elevated, hand here on the upper stomach with your fingers pointing in, hand on the ribcage; exhale your air, but don’t drop the chest. So, you don’t want to go like that, right? Chest stays up. Try that again. Take a breath in, blow your air out, keep the chest elevated. This is the first step to using the diaphragm correctly.

The second step is trying to open down here. So, breath down into your abdomen, and your ribs, and your back; all the way around into your back. Blow the air out, chest stays up; it doesn’t drop. And then take a breath in, reach down into your abdomen, ribs, and back. Imagine that diaphragm going all the way down, blowing the air out, keeping the chest elevated. You’re on your way to breathing into your diaphragm.