Before we start, it’s so important to warm our voices up, and to make sure we’re using good vocal technique. If you do all of the following lessons with poor technique, then you’re not really going to accomplish that much, and you’ll be more likely to strain your voice. Also remember to sit up straight, drink plenty of water, and don’t force anything!
I’m going to keep this section brief because technically some of the exercises that come later (like lip trills in the following chapter) are also warm ups, but we’re using them in those cases to extend our range so they fit.
The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle located underneath the lungs. I’m going to say things like “breath with your diaphragm” in this lesson, although actually you always breathe with your diaphragm. That’s kind of how our respiratory system works: when you take a breath in, your diaphragm contracts, flattening out like a pancake, which creates a vacuum that forces air into your lungs. And when you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes, going back to its normal size, which pushes air out of your lungs.
So what do I mean when I say “breathe from your diaphragm”? We tend to breathe wrong, taking shallow breaths where only the chest expands. I want you to take in deep breaths where your abdomen also rises. Getting your abdomen involved helps you take in deeper breaths and further engages the diaphragm and the muscles of the abdominal wall.
Furthermore, we want to learn to have better control of our diaphragm. Typically the diaphragm is an autonomous function. But not anymore it’s not! Not for you, at least! But don’t worry. With practice, it’ll become automatic.
Okay, take a deep breath all the way down to your stomach. Then say “tsssss”, holding that sound out for as long as you can. Make it as loud as you can. This will engage your diaphragm in the process. Try this while laying on your back with a light sandbag or something similar laying right under your rib cage for more resistance! We want a jacked diaphragm!
Take a deep breath and hum through a drinking straw. Since your mouth is closed around the straw, some of your air flow directed toward the straw gets reflected back to the vocal folds. This creates positive pressure in the vocal tract, allowing the vocal folds, or vocal chords, to vibrate more efficiently.
This is often used as a form of therapy following vocal surgeries, but it can also be used to prevent glottal injuries. You can add resistance by sticking the end of the straw in some water, and/or by using a thinner straw (such as a coffee stirrer).
If you want to achieve this semi-occluded vocal tract while moving your lips, you can poke a hole in the bottom of a paper cup and sing into the cup.