Continuation: Respirazione costo-diaframmatica: supporting the voice

I am continuing the post “Respirazione costo-diaframmatica: supporting the voice” from yesterday. 

So, science tells us that in order to sing high notes we need increased air pressure. Then how does engaging the diaphragm in the fight supply us with that air pressure? By engaging the diaphragm and the support muscles – one fighting to stay down, and the others fighting to push it back up, you increases the potential breath pressure. It’s like a rubber band being pulled. When you let go, it spring into action. The increased PBP is regulated by the voice; and when you are on the high note the diaphragm retreats in microspurts that equate to stronger pressure because the PBP was stronger due to the increased fight between diaphragm and support musculature. Had there not been as big of fight, there would not be as big of potential breath pressure; and consequently not as big of a real breath pressure. But it is the mind that does this through the voice.

Proof of this is when you press down really hard with the diaphragm and engage the support muscles with closed cords. I invite you to do this but then keep the cords open, not letting any air in or out. See how you can have the fight in the body with no air movement through the cords? Why no air movement? Because all that physical pressure is only potential breath pressure. Your mind is keeping the diaphragm in check so that it does not retreat. But as soon as you start singing, the mind will tell the diaphragm to retreat. When you sing well, the voice (mind) will tell the diaphragm how much to retreat.

The same happens in singing piano. The fight increases between diaphragm and support muscles. You support more, but this does not equate to increased pressure in the breath. In fact, it’s a scientific fact that piano singing requires less breath pressure than normal singing. Then why do we engage that way? Because we need the open throat and low larynx still.

So the trigger for open throat and low larynx is not the breath pressure, but rather the potential breath pressure.


10 responses to “Continuation: Respirazione costo-diaframmatica: supporting the voice

  1. First of all I would like to congratulate you on a truly incredible site/blog. The information you have here is first of all incredibly precise and second presented in a very easy to understand way. I must say I feel very lucky to have “bumped” into your site one day on Facebook, it was the interview od Maestro Fisichella(who’m im going to visit for a master class in about a week).
    Now, your last post speaks of the pillar of singing, respiration. I truly believe that a correct inhalation is the most important part, as you mentioned it creates the ideal “surrounding” for the vocal apparatus, in order for it to work at its most efficient level. I believe that at this point I have got to a somewhat proficient level as far as breathing is concerned, however I still have an issue as far as the slight rising of the larynx is concerned as I begin to sing. I have isolated the feeling of the adduction and abduction of the vocal folds to a good point so as too with the abduction to have a full and deep inhalation with a very satisying descent of the diaphragm with I experience as ‘something falling inside me from my xyphoid about to a little under my navel’ and then my ribs begin to expand, however the adduction is still an issue, I think that on my higher notes they pull apart a bit. Futhermore an audible example of the ‘cry’ that you speak of would be a great help because I am not sure as to what sounds you are refering to exactly.
    Once again cogratulations, and please keep up the great work!!!

  2. Wow, thanks a lot for the reference to your other post!!! It was incredibly helpfull. It is really great that you chose to give out all this incredible information like this. On a site without charge few people would do it, and even fewer with such knowledge on the topic, once again thank you very much.


    Demetrios Tsinopoulos

  3. Completely OT Jack, but, I just realized that you look A LOT like Caruso! Evviva!

  4. I agree full heartedly. I have never seen vocal issues so precise and plausibly explained as in your blog. And above all you are a great guy in person. You can demonstrate what you are talking about, don’t talk badly about other singers or teachers, you are absolutely humble and don’t waste people’s time. In other words: you are a rarity in the singing community and a treasure to be cherished.
    Thank you!

  5. Dear Jack

    First let me thank you for your blog and your very interesting articles.
    I read your article on breath support twice, and still could not exactly grasp your meaning. In my opinion it’s not possible to move the diaphragm directly, only indirectly, for example with movements of stomach. We don’t feel the diaphragm and therefore can’t move it. So when you say “Now to bad ideas… What happens when you press down with your diaphragm while singing? “ – which is equal to “don’t press your diaphragm down”, this is unclear advice. Do you mean pushing out the lower abdomen? Or pushing out the upper abdomen? Or sucking in the abdomen?

    As you know very well different teachers advocate different approaches. Some of them are presented in Jerome Hines book “The 4 voices of man” (one can read it on the web). As I understand the main difference lies in the question which way of applying pressure is correct: “downwards” (I understand this is classical appoggio breath support – singing on inhale, as they say) or “upwards” (sucking abdomen in – accent vocal school, for example). In appoggio breath support there are several variations: with ribs, with ABS, with back muscles, with lower abdomen (the latter as Hine says may bring to hernia, and Shore in his letter to Hines – also can be read on the web – says this is not appoggio, but incorrect German school, and you say it as well). The main idea is singing on inhale, i.e. retaining the inhale position during exhalation.

    Sorry, I really could not understand which approach you recommend


    • Hi Yury, I understand your confusion very well. Of course we can move the diaphragm. We do it every time we take a breath. The issue here is HOW MUCH… Maintaining an inspiratory intention with the diaphragm is correct. We can’t just let all our air be pushed out by the support musculature. The diaphragm must resist the ascent. The issue is HOW MUCH should it resist. It should NOT be the winning party. If the diaphragmatic action is too strong it is almost equivalent to singing while running out of breath. Everything just shuts down. We have to allow the diaphragm to finds its way back up. We do this primarily through the voice.. finding flowing sensations rather than gripped ones.

      • Dear Jack

        Thanks for the answer. Still not clear 🙂 Certainly, we are moving the diaphragm when we breath; but we are doing this subconsciously. In conscious way we can move it only indirectly (for example, through stomck movements).

        Certainly the balance is required; but this is true for any method. Could you describe your position in terms of stomack/ribs/chest movements during singing? The pressure is going from the bottom to the top (stomack is sucking in), or from the top to the bottom (upper part of the stomack is thrown out, and we resist natural sucking in)?



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