In our everyday life, the breaths that we take are usually quite shallow; we also make use of the auxiliary breathing muscles – shoulders, chest and neck. None of these muscles are really required to breath, and doing so will ultimately be detrimental to your voice, mainly due to additional strain and tension. Instead of this inefficient, shallow breath, for singing we want to aim for maximum expansion of the lungs, while keeping strain to a minimum. The most effective way of achieving this is by breathing into the lower abdomen, lower sides and back. Just to be clear, obviously it isn’t possible to actually breath into your abdomen, but it can help to create more expansion to visualize the breath filling up all the way down and around your lower torso.
The reason this helps you take a fuller, deeper breath is because of the movement of your diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle located just beneath the rib cage. When you inhale, it flexes downwards, towards your organs such as the stomach and liver. The more expansion you can create around your lower torso, the more space your diaphragm has to flex down, and therefore the more space your lungs have to expand, leading to a deeper, more efficient breath. An easy way to ascertain whether you’re breathing into the correct areas, is the clamp your hands on your sides, between your hips and ribs. Inhale and see if you can notice any expansion in the abs, sides and back. Focus on each area independently (back, abs, sides) before trying them all together.
So that’s the breathing basics. Well half of it, the inhalation at least. Next up will be a look at exhaling, and how this can help maximum your vocal potential.
I know what some of you may be thinking, ‘I’ve been breathing all my life, and I don’t need a lesson on how to do it thanks!’ This might be true for most people, but as a singer, you need to learn how to properly support yourself so you can reach your full vocal potential.