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diaphragmatic breathing or costal diaphragmatic breathing?

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Nano
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so i just wanna know which one is correct. ive seen people who say that the belly and the lower belly should expand a push like if you where taking a dump, others who say take the breathing to the middle and expand the ribs, others who say expand the ribs and push like if you where taking a dump (which is kinda hard). im confused and dont know what path to take.

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The only time my belly expands is when I am taking a breath. But I also notice that it doesn't seem to "cave in" much when the note continues long or when singing a high note.

 

For me, the main value of letting the belly expand to inhale is to avoid heaving the ribs, especially the upper chest. Motion, when necessary, in the abs or whatever lower section muscles you are using.

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Simple - the belly should never expand on the inhale. Here's why:

 

The abdominal wall does not expand naturally when you inhale in a standing position. It's not natural. To expand the belly you have to consciously expand the abdominal wall. In other words, you have to tense those muscles to move them. Tensing the abdominal wall interferes with the natural movement of the diaphragm.

You will see a lot of coaches demonstrate an inhale by expanding the belly out during an inhale saying "watch a baby sleep and you'll see their belly stick out".  The problem with that analogy is: 1. the baby is not forcibly expelling air. 2. the baby is on it's back.

When we sleep, the back & side muscles that activate to support our spine and torso to stand straight are relaxed. That releases the abdominal wall allowing it to expand when we breath. That doesn't happen when we stand or expel air. By tensing the abs to sing you are interfering with your support.

Breath should be targeted to expand the sides and back of the torso (mainly the back) because this is the area where we will compress/flex to expel air forcibly to sing.

Try this little experiment:
1. breathe in an expand your belly. Now try to forcibly expel air from that extended belly. You only get a short burst of air because you have to relax the belly to compress the diaphragm. Switching your target is a wasted movement.

2. Now bend over with your hands on your knees and breathe in. You will feel your sides and back expand. Hold the breathe and quickly stand. Now expel air out from your expanded back.  You should get a much more intense and longer exhale.

Why?
When we project sound over a distance, this is how the body naturally expels air; that means it's hard wired into your brain. To try to train yourself to expand your belly and support from that area is against what your body does without thinking.

Ask any coach who tells you to expand the belly when breathing in to show you ONE professional singer, in any genre, who does this when they sing. Just. one.

You will be met with silence.

I will be going over things like this in detail in my new vocal course "Zen Singing" coming later this year.

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I second Kevin's explanation. I have found that if I try to expand my belly it must be done consciously, and it feels forced. The frontal abdominal muscles are not made to inhale, they help push air out by pushing the diaphragm. 

The ones made for inhaling are the intercostals and lower back. The belly should only expand as a consecuence of your lungs moving your insides around because of a lack of space.


It's awesome to see you here Kevin. I hope you have the time to post more, you are an excellent teacher with great methodology and pedagogy.

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Simple - the belly should never expand on the inhale. Here's why:

The abdominal wall does not expand naturally when you inhale in a standing position. It's not natural. To expand the belly you have to consciously expand the abdominal wall. In other words, you have to tense those muscles to move them.

Actually, due to the point of gravity, the expansion of the abdominal wall is very natural in the standing position if the abdominal muscles are sufficiently relaxed. Also, contracting the abdominal muscles will not expand the abdominal wall. To the contrary, it will compress the abdominal wall and the viscera. The active expansion of the abdominal wall happens when the abdominal muscles are sufficiently relaxed and the diaphragm contracts and presses down on the viscera.
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There's a way of expanding the belly that is directly connected to activating and giving shape to the abdominal muscles, so I'm not sure if the "always when relaxed" is true.

I'm pretty sure, though, that the "correct" belly expansion is a side effect of being relaxed and filling the lungs downwards, like you say in response of the diaphragm pushing down. From there, the belly CAN tense, but in an more isometrical kind of tension.

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In relaxed diaphragmatic breathing, mostly the belly expands on the inhale. Daniel's exercise will set you up perfectly for this kind of breathing.

In active diaphragmatic breathing you contract the lower abs a little (the contraction pulls them IN) so that the expansion goes more into the sides and back and as a result becomes more even all around the waist, building up greater intra-abdominal pressure.

And then basically the harder the singing the more active the easier the singing the more relaxed. That's my current understanding.

None of this involves any "pushing" or "taking a dump" sensations

 

Btw, the ribs should expand on the inhale too, always, just don't overdo it to where you feel tension there.

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There's a way of expanding the belly that is directly connected to activating and giving shape to the abdominal muscles, so I'm not sure if the "always when relaxed" is true.

 

I'm interested in knowing how the activation of the abdominal muscles alone can expand the belly? 

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Have you seen when people do a kind of worm thing with the belly?  That's abdominal muscle control. If I leave the lowest abdominal part in place I can expand the whole solar plexus area and mid abdominals. 

Dancing gives you al kind of weird control over your body lol 

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I dont have a clue, but isnt it 3 lyers of muscles in different directions? they are really strong, i use them a lot in crosscountry skiing since they are stronger than my triceps and shoulders, and dont get tired so quickly. When you suck your belly in or push out, isnt it the abdominal muscles that do the job?

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let out all your air then hold your breath then when you can't hold it any longer allow the air back in without sucking it back in. it should be relaxed and go where it needs to go naturally . thats all its very simple. good luck let me know if you need any help.

I think thats a part of the problem for me, when i breath normally-not singing, i dont push all the air out for every breath, kind of lazy short breath usually in the upper part of my chest. And then i have to change it totally when i sing, it doesnt feel natural at all , for me.

But i do agree, it feels "right" and it doesnt take a lot of effort. sometimes i think all the talking about support makes people think that its a hard job (like me) and overdo it, using to much force and not coordinated right.

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 If I leave the lowest abdominal part in place I can expand the whole solar plexus area and mid abdominals. 

 

I understand. My point is, that expansion is not a result of the contraction of the upper part of the abdominal. In fact, if you don't relax that area sufficiently it will not expand very much. The expansion of the epigastrium(solar plexus) is the result of the antagonistic relation between the lower abdominal  and the diaphragm. 

 

Though, this expansion and antagonistic relation is considered to be the "right way" to control the air pressure and airflow in singing by many teachers. Also referred to as diaphragmatic support.

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You're right though, if the muscles are "lifting-tense" then they will not expand, and if they do, it's not nearly as "funny", haha. I guess we have different deffinitions of relaxed, which is fine. To me relaxed is nothing, floppy muscle. That's why I consider tension the activation of it -there are varying degrees of course, but there you go-

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Actually, due to the point of gravity, the expansion of the abdominal wall is very natural in the standing position if the abdominal muscles are sufficiently relaxed. Also, contracting the abdominal muscles will not expand the abdominal wall. To the contrary, it will compress the abdominal wall and the viscera. The active expansion of the abdominal wall happens when the abdominal muscles are sufficiently relaxed and the diaphragm contracts and presses down on the viscera.

 

Everything you say is true and I appreciate the science , but the problem is we're not talking about a relaxed position. Singing is not relaxed from the neck downward. Our bodies have to be actively engaged to support properly. The abs should not be so relaxed that they expand outward like a balloon during inhalation since they need to flex for exhalation. This may work well for relaxed yoga, but in singing the body is actively engaged in compression of the core muscle area. By targeting inhalation to the frontal abs and expanding them outward, you are only focusing your compression in an position opposite from where it needs to be for exhalation - the sides and back muscles. (i.e. latissimus dorsi, pelvic diaphragm, and lumbar fascia).

In other words, to push the belly outward (as demonstrated in so many vocal coaching videos), you have to consciously push the abs forward. This is flexing the abs in an unnatural way. One does not breathe this way naturally when standing. Stand and breathe without thinking. It doesn't happen. Now walk around and breathe. Your abs stay flat. Why? because they are engaged in exhalation and torso support.

One cannot actively engage proper exhalation compression from a protruding belly.  It's simple counter intuitive to how the brain breathes and projects sound. But thanks for your reply.

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I understand where you're coming from.

 

However, the general "belly expansion" or "belly breathing" :

 

HowToBreathe.jpg

 

Which I believe Kevin Richards is talking about, will not happen if you don't relax your abdominal sufficiently.

 

Never, ever suck in the belly during exhalation. That would limit the amount of compression one can engage in the torso. The abs stay relatively flat during both inhalation and exhalation and your target sensation is "down" when you support. The illustration is not intended for projection of sound.

I attended a masterclass by opera legend Marilyn Horne 3 years ago and EVERY single student who got up and sang had to be corrected because they sucked in their stomach either when exhaling. She couldn't stress enough how wrong that is. She said probably 75% of all singers at 'The Met' don't breathe properly. It was also a major contention for Enrico Caruso who also believed most professional singers don't breathe properly.

Danish super human breather Stig Severinsen in his book "Breatheology" advocates a flat frontal torso when exhaling.; and that guy can hold his breath for 20min.

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All the science talk here is fascinating - but again no one can answer my simple question: Can you name one professional, career singer who expands their belly outward as demonstrated by 99% of vocal coaches when singing?

Belly expansion breathing is not how we naturally breathe when we stand. Go stand for a while and see if you actively push your stomach outward.

True - there is no "power push" as Jaime Vendera likes to call it, "the dump" as Melissa Cross calls it; the body should never tense that much. Compression should feel more core centric somewhere between the waistline and the bottom of the ribcage. Upon inhalation the ribcage should expand not the belly.

And to clear up another distortion - Inhalation should always be through the nose. The nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating.

 

Of course as with all things - if belly breathing works for you - great. It just doesn't work for me and I have seen amazing results from students who switch from belly breathing to core expansion support.

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It depends a little bit on the intensity level of your singing. For higher intensity singing you should have tension in the abs basically all the time even while inhaling, which makes your belly not expand while inhaling. It is more like breathing into the lower back, letting your ribs expand sideways. If you breathe into your belly while singing on high intensity levels you will usually breathe in too much air and start pushing on the exhale.

 

For soft intensity singing (lets say lullaby level) and for "everyday breathing" it is perfectly fine to keep the abs relaxed and let the belly expand on the inhale.

 

Personally, I'm in the same boat as Kevin, though. For me personally, letting the belly expand on the inhale while singing usually totally messes up my coordination.

 

It's also worth noting that you NEVER "actively" push your belly outward, it is a side effect. The main effect is the expansion of the ribcage and if the abs stays relaxed the belly will expand a little bit outward. However, depending on your anatomy it is totally possible that your belly does not expand outward at all while standing and you should never actively force that movement on the inhale.

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@Kevin Richards

 

Thanks for your comment. What you describe is what a lot of teachers call diaphragmatic support which involves the antagonistic relation between the inhalation muscles and the exhalation muscles, and if done correctly, it will expand the area around the lower ribs and the epigastrium. 

 

I would like to emphasize that I'm neither for or against "belly breathing" - whatever works for the individual. I just wanted to point out, that the general expansion of the belly is not the result of the activation of the abdominal muscles. Also note, that when I'm talking about relaxed; i'm referring to sufficiently relaxed.

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I know it's not regarded well here on the forum, but I am a big advocate of the pushing down technique where the diaphragm plays the role of a pressure balancer. I also believe in keeping the ribs expanded.

 

The key I feel with this method is it has to occur independent of the vocal tract area.  That's where a lot of singers get this method wrong. They haven't figured out how to isolate the two. When you are able to isolate the lower core activity, the vocal folds get relief and are freed to stretch to pitch.

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The visual of pushing out the belly may be misinterpreted by some as it is the epigastrium which naturally goes out as the sides and back as well do if you are supporting. If you just shhhh really hard you will see how this epigastrium protrudes. So when Kevin you say coaches are teaching this maybe you are just seeing this expand. But I do believe whatever works for the singer. Push down suck in etc if you sing great I'm not gonna argue or mess with it

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Well, I don't drop a deuce. I let the stomach relax to draw a breath but I don't push the stomach out. And when I sing a note, I don't press the abs in. At the same time, I focus the note and let it drive whatever else is happening. And watch my vowels. I was born in California and moved to Texas in 1974, which has had some effect, so I still have to watch my vowels, just like anyone else.

 

But I don't spend a lot of time breathing through the nose while singing. In fact, I don't think about breathing, at all. I just follow the note.

 

Certainly, I am on the highway to hell ...

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