Do you wish you could sing longer phrases without needing to take a breath? Do you wish you could hold money notes out just a little longer? Do you run out of breath sooner than you’d like to? Are you sure you taking in as much air as possible and only using as much air as you need or are you taking a shallow breath and then letting it all go too easily? This post will help you sustain and maintain!

Anyone who has had the most basic singing instruction has probably heard the phrase, “Breathe from your diaphragm.” I often find that students have heard this term… but they don’t really know what it means.


“The dome shaped muscle attached to the bottom of the lungs that separates your chest and stomach cavities. Its main function is to initiate inhalation.” (Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Center For Voice Disorders, A Reader’s Glossary of Common Terms Related to Laryngology and the Voice)

Many students often think the diaphragm moves out and in – but it actually moves up and down like this…

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I think the confusion happens when students are told to breathe from their diaphragm by expanding their stomachs (and backs and even sides) when they breathe in, so they think the diaphragm is moving in and out.  I like to tell my students to imagine that they are expanding their bellies and backs so that their diaphragm and lungs can come down and fill up your whole belly area. Once you breathe in expanding your belly, back and sides it’s great to try to hold the air there so that you are only expelling the necessary amount of air.

A good way to practice this is by hissing. So – take in a big breath. (Don’t lift your shoulders! Keep them relaxed.) Now, bring your teeth together and let out a slow hiss. You should notice that your belly tightens a bit as it controls the amount of air that is expelled.

When you sing you don’t need to flex your belly like crazy, but there are some cases in which you will tighten up a bit to give you that extra support. And, as with everything some people need to have a little more tension in their belly’s and some need to have a little less. This is something a private coach can help you with.

PS – My belly is so big and pregnant right now, that I can hardly breathe to talk much record instructional singing videos. : ) But, the beginning of this belting video will give you some more breathing tips.

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Molly Mahoney Shimmer and Shine