How to sing from your diaphragm

Diaphragmatic Breathing 101

Learning to breathe using the diaphragm can be a tricky thing, so I’ve put together a quick tutorial on engaging your diaphragm so that you can breathe more efficiently for singing.

Breathing is the foundation of your voice

Think of it like this, the foundation is breathing, the walls are resonance, the roof is vowels and the fittings are diction and delivery;

  1. Foundation – breathing
  2. Walls – resonance
  3. Roof – vowels
  4. Fittings – diction and delivery

So lets take it from the start by developing your diaphragmatic breathing as a powerful foundation! First up is posture, you wouldn’t start building a house without the right tools and knowledge, right? Lets get started!

Step 1 – posture

Posture is SUPER important when learning how to sing, in fact – it’s going to be important from now on every time you sing to set up your posture so that you can breathe more efficiently. Keeping a correct posture for singing is pretty simple, but it’s often overlooked when a singer gets more confident, and even if you’re just starting out it can be an easy thing to forget.

If you practice while standing up, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and with your knees unlocked. If you’re sitting down that’s fine too! Then we’re going to work from the top down by thinking “Head Up”, “Shoulders Back”, “Chin up”, “Chest Up”. I’ve put together a video tutorial on breath support to show you how it’s done the RIGHT way:

Can you see how easy it is for me to sing, even higher up into my range? That’s not because of muscular vocal cords or pushing – it’s actually from proper diaphragmatic support of my voice and controlling my airflow vs. air pressure so that I have consistent pressure to keep my vocal chords vibrating, but not so much airflow that my tone becomes dangerous and breathy. It’s pleasant, light, but also resonant and full at the same time. Try it yourself using these steps:

  1. Head up
  2. Shoulders back and down
  3. Chin parallel with the floor
  4. Chest up

Can you feel how much easier it is to breathe, and also how much clearer your singing voice sounds when you set up your posture like this? You need to go through  these steps EVERY time you sing until it becomes second nature to sing with healthy posture – even then you’ll need to make sure you’ve got a relaxed and healthy posture, even I catch myself skipping a step here and there after 15 years of Rock Vocal Training!

Step 2 – Engage the diaphragm

Think about breathing from your stomach or lower down in your lungs towards your ribs in an outward fashion – your chest and shoulders should actually stay stationary while your diaphragm extends down. The only evidence should be a change in your belly as your diaphragm draws in air like a vacuum. It can be a little unnatural at first, but this is actually how you breathe when you’re sleeping so I assure you it IS totally naturally, and it really is the way we SHOULD be breathing all the time. Try it either lying down first, or you can try the other steps I showed you in the video above:

  • “Shoot an arrow” with your head facing forward (my personal favorite)
  • Pant like a dog that is feeling hot, decreasing in speed until it moves to your diaphragm
  • Imagine you’re breathing through an imaginary straw

Your chest and shoulders will stay in the same place, but your diaphragm will make your belly rise and fall with each breath. When you can engage your diaphragm to breathe with, it’s time to learn some control!

Step 3 – Support and breath control

How to sing from your diaphragm is actually only one part of the equation – just as important, you need to learn how to control your air after it’s been drawn in by the extended diaphragm. Your vocal cords are actually different to other ‘wind’ instruments, in that it’s not air moving across them like a reed or a whistle that makes a sound, but in fact vibration of your vocal chords creating resonance that makes a sound. The LESS air you sing with the better your voice will sound, the healthier your voice will be, and the further your range will extend! You can try this yourself by HOLDING your breath as you sing rather than expelling air like when you speak – can you feel the resonance up in your head and behind your nose? Congratulations, that’s proper breath control causing resonance!

Want more resonance? Book a session with me today and I’ll show you how!

When you’ve learned how to breathe properly and then control the air like I’ve shown you above, then you’re ready to start developing your resonance and learning about vowel sounds – practical AND modified vowel sounds to be exact. When you’re singing, it’s important for your throat and vocal tract to take specific shapes as you ascend in range to make the best use of resonance chambers, this is called a ‘modified vowel’. To facilitate these vowels, we also need to sing with particular vowel sounds which I refer to as ‘practical’ – AH, AA, OO, EE and EH. You can hear this clearly in a well trained singer, quite often they are singing a DIFFERENT vowel to the one you would expect in the word they’re singing, for example, the word “indigo” would likely be “EH-nd-EE-g-AH” depending on the style of singing and the voice type of the singer. It’s actually pretty easy to work on, and it’s one of my specialities as a Rock Vocal Coach, so you can book a session with me to your right when you’re ready to start developing your vowels and building resonance in your voice.

Can you set up a healthy posture and create a RESONANT singing voice using diaphragmatic breathing? Let me know if you have any issues in the comments below!

Feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!

Rock Singing Lessons

Rock Singing Lessons

As a “rock guy” myself, I personally struggled to find a singing teacher who took my love of all things heavy and raucous seriously. Classical scales, clean singing and a boring tone seemed to be the only course of action – until I realised all these scales and drills really weren’t helping me achieve my goal of singing rock.

After many years of being frustrated in singing lessons and spending way too much money buying books and courses, I actually ended up with more questions than any of these methods had answered. Sure, I could sing a lip trill okay most of the time, but HOW was this going to help me learn how to sing like Chris Cornell or sing Aerosmith songs? So, instead of looking for the next big “secret” or “magic” solution to singing, I started to look for very specific answers to each of these important questions – WHY wasn’t my voice working, HOW was this exercise or that exercise meant to help me, HOW do I move forward, WHY was the process taking so long?

Now that I’ve been singing for almost 20 years, and having spent 10 years developing an approach to singing focusing on answers to these very specific questions, I’m pleased to share the Foundation/Growth/Balance approach to singing that will answer each of your questions surrounding vocal Foundation and developing a great singing voice – and thankfully for you, it’s been designed with a contemporary and rock tone in mind.

 If you want to sing ROCK, this is the guy! (Mau – Australia)

 Best vocal coach ever! Before sessions with Kegan I knew a lot about singing (SLS, CVT, Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy KTVA and other methods) but couldn’t use what I know. I wasn’t able to apply over-complicated concepts and simply thought that I just have no talent for singing. Sessions with Kegan HELPS me sing songs and understand my voice and use it in way that I always dreamed. – Иван (2019)

 Seeing lots of progress in such a short amount of time! – Chris (2019)

Now, the most important thing I’ve discovered in almost two decades of learning how to sing is that ANY style of singing starts at a foundation level, especially powerful rock singing. A fantastic rock singer like John Fogerty or Chris Cornell isn’t just yelling and pushing – they have a very powerful base of support, resonance and a solid approach and understanding of vowels, range and tone. So, the first step to becoming a great rock singer is to set up a rock solid foundation. Foundation in singing is just like the concrete foundations of a house that is being built – the solid base that your walls and roof (tone and range) are built upon. Vocal foundation includes;

  • Connecting chest and head voice
  • Mixed resonance
  • Vowel formation
  • Managing resonant space
  • Balancing your onset
  • Supporting your voice
  • Developing a relationship with each element of the voice

With a solid foundation, you can then build and grow a powerful rock voice without putting your vocal health at risk. With a well supported voice that blends resonance and maintains balance throughout each register of your voice – a powerful tone will become effortless.

Start Singing Rock Today

The best place to start is the Foundation 101 singing course which will show you how to set up a powerful Foundation for your voice by connecting chest and head voice, creating mixed resonance, balancing your onset, forming your vowels properly, managing resonant space and SO much more in over 60 minutes of video tutorials and interactive warmup routines. Are you ready to take your voice to the next level?

If you have any questions about learning how to sing Rock or rock singing lessons, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!