Many of you, I
am sure, have sung solos at U.I.L. or N.A.T.S., and other contest
events, and have had it written on your adjudication sheets: "You
need to work on your breathing," or "You
need to give more support to the tone." At times,
some judges have become so specific as to instruct you to "support
from the diaphragm!" WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?!? How
should you breathe? What is support? What and where is
With only a limited
analysis we can answer these questions clearly for you.
Should We Breathe?
What is Support?
How May We Accomplish
Should We Breathe?
Breathing may be separated into two types:
act of subconsciously controlling inhalation and exhalation.
A process that is activated by the ratio of oxygen and carbon dioxide
in the blood stream which regulates the involuntary muscles
of respiration. Principally, the abdominal diaphragm,
an involuntary muscle, which suffices to maintain an oxygen level
in the body for life itself.
The act of consciously controlling the processes of inhalation and
exhalation for the purposes of:
the oxygen supply during extreme fatigue
practical actions such as blowing out a match, inflating a balloon,
*and by closing
the thoracic valve (vocal cords), thereby creating a pressure
in the thoracic and abdominal cages for certain actions such
as speech, singing, lifting, turning over in bed, excrement of
bodily wastes, and even crying during infancy.
All of the above
actions have been used by you naturally without instructions, all
of your life.
* This action has
been known to the medical profession as Valsalva's Maneuver. Discovered
by a Seventeenth Century Italian surgeon, Antonio Valsalva, he was
primarily known for his enormous contributions to research of the
We should consider
the terms support and pressure as synonymous.
the act (in singing or speaking) of creating a pressure (Valsalva's
Maneuver) in the thoracic and abdominal cages.
is accomplished by closing the vocal cords and flexing the
muscles of forced expiration.
is accomplished by creating enough subglotic pressure to overcome the
resisting force (myolastic effort) of the vocal cords,
thus forcing them to vibrate.
(sound) is not accomplished
by air flowing over the vocal cords.
(phonation) is accomplished by optimum (just the correct amount) forced
effort of the muscles of expiration and the optimum resistance of
the vocal cords.
Air flow between
the cords is inversely proportionate to sound quality. THE
LESS AIRFLOW THE BETTER!
May We Accomplish Support?
Pressure is created by diminishing the lateral and vertical diameters
of the thoracic cage. There are three positive efforts in
which this may be accomplished.
of the muscles of the ribcage (principally the latissimus dorsi,
transverse thoracic, and the internal intercostals) to diminish
the lateral diameters.
of the abdominal group (transverse abdominus, external oblique,
internal oblique, and rectus abdominus) to pull the bottom of
the ribcage down and in, thereby also diminishing the lateral diameters
of the thoracic cage.
flexing the four large muscles of the abdominal group, which compress the
abdominal viscera (anything inside the abdominal cavity), and
force it up against the diaphragm, the lower wall of the thoracic
cage -- thereby diminishing the vertical diameters
of the thoracic cavity. Thus, THE ABDOMINAL DIAPHRAGM SERVES
ONLY IN A PASSIVE CAPACITY AS THE LOWER WALL OF THE RIBCAGE,
and plays no active function in support.