Is Diaghramatic Breathing the Best Breathing Technique for Singing?

Is Diaphragmatic Breathing the Best Breathing Technique for Singing?

Joe NaabBreathing for Singing

Is Diaphragmatic Breathing the Best Breathing Technique for Singing?

I'm a stickler for language. I like to use words correctly when possible.

There are several ways to breathe while singing. I don't want you to think that I'm trying to force my way upon you.

There is a better way to breathe for singing than diaphragmatic singing. It's called costal-diaphragmatic singing.

Before you roll your eyes thinking, "so what, they're the same!", know that they are not the same.

There are quite a few ways to breath. Here's a short list of the most common:

  • Diaphragmatic-only
  • Costal-only (the breathing muscles between your ribs)
  • Clavicle (muscles at the top of your ribcage).
  • Costal-Diaphragmatic

There are many advantages to employing the latter in your breathing for singing technique.



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The Benefits of Costal-Diaphragmatic Breathing for Singing

When you breathe only with your diaphragm you are missing out on the best source of air pressure for your phrases,—passive air pressure.

Two Forces of Positive Air Pressure While Singing

When singing, you can use two different forces to increase the air pressure:

  • Passive forces
  • Active forces

The difference is easy to understand.

Passive forces come from two places:

  • Elastic recoil forces of the lungs
  • Elastic recoil forces of the expanded rib cage

Active forces come from one source only,—your abdominal muscles pushing up against your lungs to drive air out.

Passive forces are desirable because, after you've inhaled, there's nothing for you to do but to let them happen.

You do less work. You're more efficient in your singing.

Also, these forces are dependable. They do slow steadily throughout the phrase, and that's okay.

How to Generate the Passive Forces of Exhale

The elastic forces from the expanded rib cage are only available if you expand the rib cage on your inhale!

Only a costal-diaphragmatic inhale expands the rib cage while also drawing the diaphragm down to take in a good amount of air.

Lung elasticity is maximized by the size of inhale you take.

A costal-diaphragmatic inhale takes in the most air and creates the most elasticity.

This is too complex a subject to cover here in it's entirely. I simply want you to be aware of your choices.

I'll leave you with a quote from one of the most respected voice coaches of the 20th century:

“Of the three main methods of breathing, upper chest, rib and diaphragmatic, it is generally conceded that the best method for singing is a combination of the latter two.”
- Barbara Doscher, The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice

What to do Next

If you're looking to get better at singing faster, check out all of the new articles this week on breathing for singing.

So many pop coaches are teaching that breathing can be ignored. Or, they teach it quickly and often incorrectly.

Know that there is a 400 year history of singing technique from the best coaches and teachers that puts breathing for singing at the forefront of learning.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Leave any questions you have, too.

Be Well and Train Hard!


Written by Joe Naab

Voice Building Coach and Course Creator

Since early 2013, Joe Naab has immersed himself into the study and training of all things related to improving his own singing voice at a fundamental level. Having overcome a number of serious vocal problems along the way, he now shares what he has learned in the hope that he can help others fulfill their own goals as singers.