A common myth that has been oft repeated is that of the all-powerful “diaphragm”. Many believe it to be key, 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.
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, the diaphragm is not able to be directly controlled by a human anyways. It works involuntarily, responding naturally during the process of respiration. When your body signals the lungs that it needs more oxygen for energy, then your lungs begin to inflate. The diaphragm (looks like an inverted bowl) starts to flatten in response to your lungs inflating. 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.
Humans have no way to have a thought, saying to the diaphragm “flatten” or “slowly, rise”, that actually would cause the diaphragm to do anything. 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.
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”.