The Diaphragmatic Breathing
The secret to all vocal improvements can be found always and only in the search for correct breathing. Breathing correctly allows you to have more energy, more concentration, more calm and a more powerful voice, as well as making your vocal timbre stand out. Breathing is half of what it takes to be a good singer. Many people are convinced that they are breathing with the diaphragm only when they sing, but in reality someone who breathes, simply uses the diaphragm all of the time: while they sleep, while they eat, while they run in the street, while they watch a movie. It's how and how much you use it that makes the difference!
The breathing of newborns
Everyone knows how much small babies can make themselves heard. And they have only started to breathe just a few seconds before. How do they manage to cry and scream for so much time without having any sort of problems with their vocal cords? Why don't they lose their voices? It all has to do with how they breathe: using only and exclusively the diaphragm. They do not use any other muscle because they are not yet capable and do not yet have enough strength. All of us start our lives using our diaphragm, but then at a certain point we stop using it due to the modern way of living. Therefore, it is not a question of learning to breathe in a natural way, but to go back to breathing in the way that Mother Nature has predisposed us to.
Do you know how you are breathing in this very moment? There is no need to ask others, you can also find out by yourselves.
Take a deep breath while you are on your feet in front of a full-length mirror. Try to fill the lungs taking in air from the nose without hurting yourself, then let the air out slowly from the mouth. Try to listen to the sensations of your body and observe with attention your reflexes during this whole time. What parts of your body are soft and what sensations do you feel?
If you have lifted your shoulders, moved your chest or if you have made your belly so big that you look like a sumo wrestler, then you are not using diaphragmatic breathing or you were taught incorrectly how to use it.
If you have used any muscle strength to make the air go out, maybe towards the end of the breath, then you are not using diaphragmatic breathing.
How to learn how to use the diaphragm?
I receive daily emails from people who ask me this same question: "I have studied voice for X number of years, how can I know if I am using the diaphragm?" I always answer with the same sentence: - "by looking not at HOW to use the diaphragm, but at WHEN to use the diaphragm". Let's suppose for a moment that you want to learn to play the piano. Everyone wants to begin by playing a few pieces, maybe in the style of jazz, very trendy nowaday. But to really learn to play that instrument one must begin with exercises of the posture of the hands, to strengthen the muscles in the fingers, first for one hand and then the other, then together. Whoever tries to take a shortcut will not be able to ever say they know how to play the piano, but only to know how to pound the keys, and they will have great difficulty to re-learn the basics in the next phase.
Therefore, it is fundamental to learn to work the diaphragm, at least in an initial way, BEFORE singing for years. Otherwise you are learning something wrong which will then require more time to get over with.