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Breath Support

GuevaraGuevara Enrolled Posts: 140
edited April 2012 in Ken Tamplin's Corner

Hi Ken, I have watched Volume 1 and 2 continually over the last week and feel I have a good grasp (in theory) of the method as you have explained perfectly; however just a couple of questions about breath support.

Lets say I start a phrase of a song on A4 and the phrase is a decending one. As I hit the A4 note (with the right vowel modification and using as little air as possible) do I push down on my diaphragm to the point where it would be if I had ascended to that note from the lets say an octave below?

And then as I descend down through the phrase should my diaphragm be slowly releasing or should I keep it at the same point until the phrase is complete and then release it to allow the next breath to drop in ready for the next phrase?  

I have watched very closely the video of you coaching Sara; her diaphragm (front lower abs) can be seen to move inwards on each phrase regardless of if the phrase is ascending or descending or doing both.

I realise that that asking you all this is a bit like asking someone to explain in words how to ride a bike:-) Kind regards GaryGuevara     



Best Answers

  • KokonuhtKokonuht Member, Enrolled Posts: 658
    Answer ✓
    Your support should stay all the way until you're at the end of the phrase then you quickly release and quickly get it back ;)

  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    Answer ✓



    An A4 is an A4.  If that is a high note for you (it is for me), then you should be pushing down with your diaphragm in order to provide support for the note, whether ascending to it or descending to it...   Chances are you would be pushing down on everything above an F4 on your way up to an A4, and pushing down more the higher you go towards your A4 and beyond.

    In the instance of Descending to an A4 (from what note I do not know) you would be pushing down more on notes above A4 and pushing down for the A4 the same when descending as you would be if ascending, and pushing down less on the diaphragm the lower you go.

    And yes, this is very much like typing about the fine nuances of balancing on a bicycle, or perhaps even a reverse unicycle on a tightrope!

  • KokonuhtKokonuht Member, Enrolled Posts: 658
    Answer ✓
    Hmm... I don't remember Ken telling me to release off my diaphragm when I'm descending on notes though. When I have my webcam with Ken, Ken told me to always have your support up strong. If it goes higher, get it stronger. If it's not that high, you're still gonna need it to be strong so you can lessen the tension in other places of the body. ONLY release when you are CLOSE to the end of the phrase and then quickly take a breath in.

    My thought on this is that, keep your support strong and only go stronger not weaker / releasing. Only start to release when you're near the end of the phrase.

    The reason why the solar plexus and the stomach are pushed outwards is because of the diaphragm contracting, moving downwards hence pushing the other organs outwards no? I always thought of this that way o_o
  • KokonuhtKokonuht Member, Enrolled Posts: 658
    Answer ✓
    That is true. It's not literally using your "diaphragm" but it's just a phrase to help most of the people to visualize and get the feeling right ;).

    Though by pushing out the muscles, you aren't really relaxing them but are contracting them in a way if I'm not mistaken. This is where it helps to regulate the air flow and take over the tension from the throat. 

    Correct me if I'm wrong @highmtn!
  • highmtnhighmtn Administrator, Moderator, Enrolled, Pro, 3.0 Streaming Posts: 15,346
    edited April 2012 Answer ✓

    As Rayhan suggests, in the Glottal Compression Webinar, Ken explains how the term "Diaphragm" has come to refer to the entire abdominal muscle complex, which includes the actual thorasic diaprhagm, the intercostals, and the entire abdominal muscle groups that go around the sides and attach to the spinal column for spinal support. 

    This "diaphragm" in vocal terminology is kind of like how the term 'Xerox" became a term for "copy machine", even though the copier may not have been made by Xerox corporation.  In vocalese, "diaphragm" may be referring to the entire breathing machine comprised of our thorax and all of its muscle groups, in addition to the lungs, trachea, larynx, throat, mouth and nose.  The term also may be used to refer to the actual thorasic diaphragm and/or the pelvic diaphragm.

    Ken does say to keep pressing down until you are ALL the way down from all of your high notes, not just THE HIGH NOTE of a scale.  Then he also says to release this tension as soon as you are off the high notes, because otherwise you will lock up the abdominal muscles, and wear out your strength to the point that you will not be able to keep up the stamina needed to support an entire vocal performance.  Our "diapragm" needs to rest between strokes, just like our heart rests in between each heartbeat. 

    Using this complex of muscles to resist, regulate, and control the outflow of air while singing is the art of support. 


  • Ken TamplinKen Tamplin Administrator, Moderator Posts: 446
    Answer ✓

    Thank you again Bob for quoting me berbatum, this is absolutely correct


    Ken does say to keep pressing down until you are ALL the way down from all of your high notes, not just THE HIGH NOTE of a scale. Then he also says to release this tension as soon as you are off the high notes, because otherwise you will lock up the abdominal muscles, and wear out your strength to the point that you will not be able to keep up the stamina needed to support an entire vocal performance. Our "diapragm" needs to rest between strokes, just like our heart rests in between each heartbeat.

    Using this complex of muscles to resist, regulate, and control the outflow of air while singing is the art of support.

    You can start to release diaphragmatic "spring" or pressure about 1/2 to 3/4's of the way down a scale or a lower key phrase.

    Once your are done immediately relax the whole diaphragmatic support mechanism like a "puppet/marionette" who's master has let go of the strings (limp) for the split second you need in recovery time so as to not lock up the abdominal structure and have power for the next phrase.


  • GuevaraGuevara Enrolled Posts: 140

    I agree with you 100% Kokonuhtz on that; however I don't think your answer has fully answered my point:-(

  • KokonuhtKokonuht Member, Enrolled Posts: 658
    Sorry but I couldn't understand the first question >.<" So I just went ahead and answered the second haha.

    The higher the note is the more support you're gonna need if you're singing it in more chest or full chest.

    Could you try rephrasing your question? X_X!
  • GuevaraGuevara Enrolled Posts: 140

    Hi Guy's

    Thanks for the replies guys, 

    Okay I understand the concept of there needing to be more diaphragm support as I am going higher up in any scale of phrase and that I need to hold back on the amount of air passing over the cord.

    As ken has taught us, breath support is not about blasting and pushing and using up more air (Which is something I have been guilty of in the past) but more about holding the breath in reserve and using the diaphragm to create the power and support. 

    You make an excellent point Bob in your answer, about the fact that A4 is A4 regardless of where it is within any given scale or phrase and it will need the same amount of support whether you approach it form above or below, or indeed start a phrase on it.

    Now I think this is the point on which I have a bit of slight confusion; please stick with me guys.

    A straight up and down scale is a consistant thing. You take your breath and as you ascend the scale you push down on your diaphragm. You reach the top note of the scale and as you come back down you are releasing the pressure on your diaphragm (in much the same way that the vowel mods reconvine in the same places on the way down, so does the amount of diaphragm pressure needed for each individual note) and if you viewed this process from the side you would see the area below the sturnum gently move in on the upward part of the scale and gently move out on the downward part of the scale. In fact there is a new short youtube video of Ken demontrating this very thing. 

    However pretty much every phrase of every song is going both up and down or staying on one note for a bit and not smoothly going from bottom to top and back down again as in a scale;

    So I take my breath at the start of a song phrase, and lets say again that the first note is an A4. So I push down on my diaphragm and sing the note (making the right vowel mod, opening my throat, tongue down, good posture etc).

    Right so lets say the phrase starts out descending, so I have to release some of the pressure on my diapraghm right? So as I am singing this downward part of the phrase, if you were to view my diaphragm area from the side you would see it moving outwards even though I am still singing, is this correct? and then as the same phrase continues and it rises you would see my diaphragm move back inwards. 

    That is the concept that I find slightly confusing, that as I sing a descending phrase my diaphraghm (frontal abs) is in effect moving outwards, where my natural thought is that it would be moving inwards thoughout the whole phrase regardless of the pitch rising or falling.  

    I totally understand the concept of releasing the diaphraghm between phrases to allow the breath to quickly drop in for the next phrase thats not what I'm talking about here. 





  • GuevaraGuevara Enrolled Posts: 140

    Ah yes if I can just add one more thing.... If anyone has a recording of the breath support webinar that they could put up that would be a real help:-)

  • GuevaraGuevara Enrolled Posts: 140

    Ah yes, I think that you have straightend out my slight confusion on this point Kokonuhtz.

    As for your point in your final paragraph... I think we are in agreement, but well here's my take on it just so we know we are both on the same page or not:-)

    When vocal coaches/singers refer to the diaphraghm they are usually talking about the front abdominal area from the solar plexus all the way down to just above the groin area. Now when the muscles in this area are relaxed (while keeping the rib cage expansion) the "actual" diaphragm (which is a thick dome shaped muscle which lays more or less horizontal underneath the lungs) relaxes and moves down and pushes the other organs outwards.

    Now during singing (or breathing out) when we push down on the area that we as singers refer to as the diaphragm (the front abdominal muscles) the "actual" diaphragm muscle is in fact moving upwards.

    Let me know if this concurs with your knowledge/information. Great talking with you Kokonuhtz!    

  • GuevaraGuevara Enrolled Posts: 140

    Thanks guys, brilliant answers.

    This point has become much clearer now for me.

    It's interesting that you mention Glottal compression, Bob, because this was something that I did in the past without anyone ever having told me about it as a technique, I just came upon it out of experimenting. And here's the thing; I actually thought that what I was doing was wrong and stopped doing it (even though it gave me good results) because no book or vocal coach or youtube video ever mentioned, explained or demonstrateded such a thing and infact discouraged any such thing. When I got Ken's course and saw him explain it and demonstrate it so simply and effectively, I was like "Wow! I was on the right track after all"

    Thanks again guys for your time and imput spent on my question . I have found the pdf's about the voice on the bonus disc and will them careful close study.


  • GuevaraGuevara Enrolled Posts: 140

    Thanks Ken, you've cut right to the heart of my question:-)

    This is 100% perfectly clear in my mind now. I start to release diaghramatic "spring" or pressure about 1/2  to 3/4's of the way down a scale or lower key phrase.

    In the recap in volume 2 you do say about gently releasing the diaphragm AS we come back down. I just wasn't entirely sure at what point this gentle release should begin. Now I know!!

    Kind regards, Gary

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