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Diaphragmatic Breathing: The First Step to a Good Voice

What we know about breathing and the voice: The power or driving force behind our voice comes from breathing and airflow. Just like how a car needs gas in order to function, air is the “gas” that makes our voice go. Our goal is to speak with good breath support and not to rely solely on the muscles of the throat. When we don’t have good breath support we create tension within our voicebox. This ultimately leads to strain, laryngeal tightness, and poor voicing.

Diaphragmatic breathing: The diaphragm is the most important muscle for inspiration. It is a large, dome-shaped muscle that is situated beneath your lungs. Diaphragmatic breathing is taught to help improve the efficiency your breathing and help strengthen the diaphragm. People often get into a habit of tightening their chest and shoulders when they breathe, instead of relaxing those muscles and filling the low belly up with air. This technique will help improve your overall breath support and aid in the improvement of your vocal quality.

  • First, take a mental check of your posture. Good posture is extremely important. Sit up or stand up straight. When sitting, remember ninety degrees at the ankles, knees, and hips.
  • Hand position. Second, lay a hand on your chest and one on your belly. With your mouth closed, take a deep breath in through your nose. Exhale through pursed lips.
  • As you breathe in, the stomach should move outward, filling up like a balloon.
  • As you breathe out, the stomach should flatten, as if releasing all the air from the balloon.
  • Remember that breathing is a matter of moving the muscles of the stomach without tensing the muscles of the chest and shoulders.
  • Practice breaths. Take a couple of practice breaths. You should feel your stomach expand and fill up with air. You may also feel your lower back fill up with air. Pay careful attention to your chest and neck, which should both remain relaxed and flat. Use your hands to help you feel if your chest is moving too much or if you are tightening up during these exercises.
Daily practice:
  1. Keep track of the length of your inhales and exhales. The goal is to make your exhales longer than your inhales. On your inhales, count how long of a breath you can take in. Make a goal of three seconds to start. Inhale, then count: “1…2…3,” pause. Exhale, and count to four in your head while you let the air out: “1…2…3…4…” As you continue to improve, increase your exhale count. For example: Inhale to a count of 4, exhale to a count of 5. Then work towards inhaling for 5 seconds, and exhaling for 6 seconds. Complete this 10 times, three times per day.
  2. After 10 breaths, inhale through the nose and exhale making an easy “S” sound. Complete 10 easy “S” sounds, then switch to “Z”. Complete 10 easy “Z” sounds on your exhales. Concentrate on the vibration of your tongue and roof of your mouth. Make sure your shoulders remain relaxed.
Questions? Call UMMC Speech-Language Pathology 601-815-6064.

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