Read My Response to A Reader Supporting Diaphragmatic Breathing For Singers


Rae, bless her heart, wrote a rather scathing response to my article titled,

This is my response:

Dear Rae

Thanks for your comment. I  have personally used diphragmatic breathing in singing, based on the writings of Graham Green. Singers were taught to pull in on the stomach in order to help the diaphragm to push air out of the lungs.

I personally experienced the following results:

* exhaustion
* I had to concentrate fully on pushing air out of the lungs
* I experienced overbreathing and lack of adequate tone and volume in the voice

 I was relieved to discover and use a more natural approach to breathing in singing. I have since improved and developed the tone, range and quality of my voice by simple breathing exercises. Now I use the natural approach to singing and have no problems at all.

I have taken and taught anatomy (sic). I have also personally observed that babies and other individuals such as asthmatics in severe respiratory distress use the abdominals to help the diaphragm to push air out of the lungs.

Any text on pathophysiology reveals that use of the abdominal muscles for breathing is an an abnormal state in the respiratory system. People with this condition usually require immediate respiratory support.

My only logical conclusion is that diaphragmatic breathing will force the singer into a state of respiratory distress.



Posture for singers

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Posture is important for the singer since a series of muscles and other structures must remain in alignment in order for the voice to function as a well oiled machine, as I like to say. It may be helpful to pay attention to pay attention to the following recommendations:

Proponents of the Alexander Technique recommend that the head should be free and balanced on the head. The result is that there is no interference with the vocal structures and the promotion of a projected, colorful voice. To promote a free and balanced head, the singer should recognize the mind body connection and say to him/herself:

Let the head be free
Let the head go forward and up
Let the chest lengthen and widen.

No effort should be made to force the head into any position since the head will obey what it is told (creative power as in “let there be light” etc).

Singers will find that habits such as lifting the head when singing will be eliminated since this practice actually throws the vocal structures out of alignment and interfere with the singing.


The tongue should be relaxed on the floor of the mouth and the tip placed behind the lower teeth. This creates more space in the mouth for the escape of the sound. Some
theorists teach that it should be flattened in the mouth, but this is not beneficial to the singer.

The lower jaw must be free and relaxed to allow the throat to open and therefore a free escape of air/sound. A simple exercise is the breathe, let the jaw fall and whisper “ah” with the escaping breath.


Surmani recomends that the feet should be placed firmly in the floor, shoulder width apart. The knees should be relaxed and not locked. Spine should be straight and t he shoulders relaxed and down. This shoulder position enhances breathing movements.

See you soon

Exercise 3 – Breathing Exercises From Behnke


How are you doing so far? In order to prevent hyperventilation (overbreathing),  I would recommend that you do these exercises at separate instances.


Breathe in slowly, steadily and quietly through the nose

Hold the breath for ONE count

Open the mouth and let out the breath slowly, steadily and quietly

Don’t breathe for ONE count after breathing outRepeat the exercise 12  times, resting after each set of four.


Exercises 1 and 11 – Breathing Exercises From Benkhe

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I hope that you are experiencing marked improvement in your voice. You should be doing so if you are a diligent student. I found these useful breathing exercises in an old text by K. Behnke and found them useful:



Breathe in slowly, steadily and quietly through the nose

Hold the breath for TWO counts. While holding the breath, open the mouth widely and let the air escape quickly and quietly.

Don’t breathe for TWO counts.

Repeat the exercise three times.

Rest for 30 seconds after the fourth repetition.

Repeat the entire exercise three more times taking 30 second rests after each set.



Breathe in slowly, steadily and quietly through the nose

Hold the breath for TWO counts

Release the breath suddenly while saying HAH

Don’t breathe for TWO counts.

Repeat the exercise three times, breathing out on HAY then HEE.

Rest 30 seconds after the fourth repetition


It may be a wise idea not to do all these exercises in one sitting. Actually, I must confess that I myself have never really gotten beyond exercise one except on a few occasions. It is quite good. Enjoy



Behnke, K. (1948). Singer’s difficulties – how to overcome them. Britain: Lowe and Brydone Printers Limited

Benefits Of Breathing Exercises

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Breathing is a very important to singing and I have discovered that it is equivalent to having a foundation for a building. Breathing exercises  help singers to:


  1.  develop flexibility and agility in the breathing muscles so that he/she could do things like taking quick snatches of air.
  2.  develop sustained singing/sing without running our of breath.
  3.  control and support the escape of air from the lungs
  4.  improve vocal tone and eliminate unpleasant vocal problems such as nasal tones, harsh sounds etc
  5.  develop natural and beautiful singing



One useful guideline for breathing exercises was given by Ron Murdock, in his article “Born to sing”:

He recommended that the most efficient way to train the breathing apparatus is to breathe in then concentrate on breathing out in a coordinated and rhythmic manner.


The Rib Cage exercise from Deva is quite effective in enhancing breathing as well as the tone and quality of the voice.


Try starting with the exercises from yesterday’s post and I will add more later



Hewitt, G. (1987).  How to sing. Britain: Elm Tree Books.
Murdock, R. (2007). Born to sing.  Retrieved from

Exercises That Free The Voice

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I thought that we could start with a simple, but effective exercise that will help to “free” your voice. Please click on this link and read the article. The exercises that you need are in the last two paragraphs –

If you cannot cope with the exercises here, you can:

  • adapt it by breathing in then breathing out on the vowel sound “ah”.
  • Do not make any vocal sounds, let the “ah” escape in a whisper.
  • This will relax the muscles of the throat and neck; open the space at the back of the throat and cause the voice to become naturally resonant or loud.


Breathe and sing with ease

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I hope that you are ready to move onto the “secret” techniques for breathing and singing with ease. Here are some recommendations based mainly on the writings of Ron Murdock in Singing and the Alexander technique:

1. Breathe in and out through the nose.

This is physiologically sound since air taken in to the mouth would enter the stomach and not the lungs.

2. Breathe in SIPS OF AIR rather than huge inbreaths.

Several actions result if one takes in too great a volume of air. One of these is that the diaphragm falls too low and this affects vocal cord function (the diaphragm and vocal cords are connected).

In her book, Learn to sing, Karen Farnum Surmani also explains that taking in sips of air is more in keeping with the natural breathing process. When the singer breathes in naturally, this supports a natural breathing process leading to more beautiful singing. My singing improved tremendously after I adopted this technique.

3. Breathe out fully and rhythmically

This fully utilizes all of the breathing muscles and helps the singer to work fully with nature. This also allows the singer to breathe in again as a natural reflex action rather than having to heave air into the lungs.

4. Train the breathing structures

There are many breathing exercises for strengthening the breathing structures. However, the simplest explanation that I have ever read comes from Murdock in “singing and the Alexander technique”. He recommends that the most efficient way to train the breathing organ is to concentrate on breathing out air in the lungs . As the air is released, the reflex action of breathing in will be initiated.

Next time – breathing exercises, throat open position and neck position. See you then!

To access this simple and interesting book by Karen Farnum Surmani, please click on “TEACH YOURSELF TO SING” in Blog roll located on the lower right side of the blog.

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