An oft-repeated myth about the all-powerful diaphragm:
Many believe we should “sing from the diaphragm.” They say the diaphragm is the most important part of learning how to sing. We are told to breathe into the diaphragm and directly control it by either “popping it in and up” or “pushing it down and out”. We are told that once we control it then we will control the breath and then all we have to do is somehow “place” our voice somewhere like between our eyes – voila! – easy as that.
The Reality is…
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but the diaphragm is not the central focus in learning how to sing. Actually, the diaphragm isn’t something that we really worry about or even discuss.
You see, you cannot directly control the diaphragm. It works involuntarily, responding naturally during the breathing process. When your body signals the lungs that it needs more oxygen for energy, then your lungs begin to inflate. The diaphragm (which looks like an inverted bowl) flattens to make way for the inflating lungs. When it has the air, your body does some amazing things when it converts oxygen to energy with the byproduct being carbon dioxide. As you breathe out all that nasty carbon dioxide (plants love it!) then your diaphragm returns to its inverted bowl shape.
And all that happened without you telling the diaphragm to do anything.
So What To Do?
Humans have no way to direct the diaphragm to “flatten” or “slowly, rise.” It works as an automatic response. So don’t worry, it will do what it needs to do for us just as it always has.
What you can do is understand your music and text so that when you breathe for your song, your body has a clear goal to fulfill. With practice, you develop your ability to interpret music and text while at the same time allowing your body to respond the way it’s designed to.
A final thought: Yes, our breathing and respiratory process is very important for singing. Yet, it is secondary to another process that we will explore in greater detail elsewhere. This primary process for singing is called “registration”.