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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi! I've got a fairly elementary question regarding abdominal support. I've used the search function a bunch, and I understand the concept of tightening the stomach muscles for support. However it seems there are 2 ways to do this. One is to pull the stomach in, ala "sucking in my gut". The other way more or less incorporates the opposite action, in that I seem to be sort of pushing the stomach out. In both cases the stomach muscles are tensed but in opposite directions. So my question is which way is correct? Or is it actually some other way I haven't considered? Thanks in advance.
 

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There's a third way using isometrics. I used to use it when I I didn't have so much insulation down there. Need to get back to that.
 

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There is lots of information on the topic.
Do a google search on diaphragm singing and/or bel canto.
There is not complete agreement on the topic.
Personally, expanded-out works for me.
I like the Allard school of thinking.
Dave Liebman's book "Developing a personal sound" discusses it.
Search old topics on the forum. There have been a lot of discussions about breathing technique.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Pgraves said:
There is not complete agreement on the topic.
I think this is my issue. I've used the search function on this forum a bunch, as well as other internet searches with regards to singing and playing wind instruments, And there does not seem to be a consensus from any quarter as to how it's supposed to work. The only part of that I find surprising is that breathing and controlling the breath is such a vital issue in singing and playing, and there seems to be not much out there written about it that's not really vague. "Breathe from the diaphragm", "use your stomach muscles to push the air out", or my favorite "use the muscles that you use to go to the bathroom" (yikes). I guess I was just looking for something a little less mysterious. And the search continues....:)
 

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My thoughts for describing would be pushing down and out with your diaphragm but holding your abdominal muscles flat. Your lungs full and holding their shape like an air mattress full of air. Not like a balloon full of water and sagging at the bottom.
I'm working on new breathing analogies for teaching. Let me know if this one doesn't make sense to you.
 

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I have talked about this pretty thoroughly with an outstanding and well trained opera singer and voice teacher. When she inhales and compresses the air it is "out" and the air is pushed out and up from the bottom of the lungs while keeping the out position. If you have to completely empty the lungs, of course the out position will be lost. Joe Allard told me that you "cannot be aware of your diagphram anymore than you can of your toenails", and that all this talk about diagphram was "nonsense", but did advocate expanding out and emptying the bag from the bottom up, and the way he told me to breathe was in fact using the diagphram the same way as a well trained singer does when the air is compressed from the "out" position.
The area that moves out (and beyond the rib cage) is the area just below the sternum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Pgraves said:
The area that moves out (and beyond the rib cage) is the area just below the sternum.
I just got done trying this and I think this makes the most sense to me. Of course the ab musculature below this point tightens as well but if I concentrate on the area just below the sternum (after taking a good breath of course) It seems like the tone is supported better and it takes some pressure off the embouchure. I'm going to work with it some more, but thanks very much for all the responses!
 

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Pgraves said:
Joe Allard told me that you "cannot be aware of your diagphram anymore than you can of your toenails", and that all this talk about diagphram was "nonsense", but did advocate expanding out and emptying the bag from the bottom up, and the way he told me to breathe was in fact using the diagphram the same way as a well trained singer does when the air is compressed from the "out" position.
Despite my deep respect for Allard and his teachings and my full agreement with his embouchure and tone production philosophies, I don't agree with this. I feel pretty aware of what's going on with my diaphragm. When you consciously breath in (as we all do), you're consciously using your diaphragm. If you add to that an understanding of the breathing mechanism and some controlled breathing excercises (I'm not a Yoga hippie, but I have done a bunch of reading on Yogic breathing because of it's application to playing woodwinds.), you end up with a pretty strong awareness of your diaphragm. (and as someone who plays soccer, gets his toes stomped on, and has recently lost some toenails I disagree on that aspect of it, too.)
 

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littlemanbighorn said:
Despite my deep respect for Allard and his teachings and my full agreement with his embouchure and tone production philosophies, I don't agree with this. I feel pretty aware of what's going on with my diaphragm. When you consciously breath in (as we all do), you're consciously using your diaphragm. If you add to that an understanding of the breathing mechanism and some controlled breathing excercises (I'm not a Yoga hippie, but I have done a bunch of reading on Yogic breathing because of it's application to playing woodwinds.), you end up with a pretty strong awareness of your diaphragm. (and as someone who plays soccer, gets his toes stomped on, and has recently lost some toenails I disagree on that aspect of it, too.)
I too kind of disagree. I think that you can be aware of the movement and use of it, but maybe cannot feel the actual diaphram itself. I don't know what sort of nerve connections are in the thing itself that would allow you to feel it. Certainly you can be aware of how you move this area around though. I think that was Joe's point. In any case, I was just passing along what he told me. Perhaps when you are breathing you are not some much conscious of the diaphram as you are of using various muscles to move your rib cage and chest and to suck in air. Lots of things happen and they affect the diaphram, but you don't "feel" the diaphram itself.

"The Diaphragm is a dome-shaped musculofibrous septum which separates the thoracic from the abdominal cavity, its convex upper surface forming the floor of the former, and its concave under surface the roof of the latter. Its peripheral part consists of muscular fibers which take origin from the circumference of the thoracic outlet and converge to be inserted into a central tendon."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaphragm_(anatomy)


ps - just like your toenails, when your toe is stomped you feel the tissue around it, not the nail itself
 

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In fact, for me it feels mostly as pushing my stomach up. The tension should be in the diaphragm, which is no part of the stomach muscles in fact. You tense it too if you expect a blow in your stomach, to prevent the air from being pushed out of your lungs.

It's that muscle you have to use, the muscle between your abdomen and your chest at the inside.
 

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I'm inclined to agree with both Swampcabbage and Jolle. I guess a good way to conceptualize the techinque is to get on the floor and do a crunch (not a sit-up) while breathing out as if you were blowing through a saxophone (this means with your lips pursed together). That should pretty accurately replicate the feel - not in or out, just tense, or, as Jolle said, up. Hope this helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Just thought I'd report back with something interesting. In fooling with all the physical aspects of this I decided to kind of apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid) and rather than think about what's doing what muscle wise I started thinking about just taking a good breath and moving the air from the bottom up. In other words just thinking of the air moving up all the time and letting the muscles involved take care of themselves. I find that all sorts of stuff happens physically, on it's own, and with a lot less tension and effort than I was previously experiencing. I still can't tell what's going where, but since it's working it really dosen't matter and things seem to go better if I just concentrate on the end result I want and then stay out of the way....:)
 
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The proper way to breathe is through your diaphragm. You draw air into your lungs by pulling your diaphragm down; you expel air by pushing your diaphragm up. You move your diaphragm by extending your stomach out and in.

The wrong way to breathe is to hold your stomach in one position while trying to expand your chest or raise your shoulders. Don't hold your stomach in; don't hold it out, either.

When you breathe normally, you probably do the stomach breathing, rather than the chest breathing. It's the way you should breathe when you do sport or physical exercise; it's the way you breathe when you play the sax.

In karate, the center of your body is considered to be the spot just above your navel, called the tanden. It is where your power or energy (ki) resides. When a karateka strikes, he/she will tense up the tanden, resulting in kiai (air exploding from the lungs).
 

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I find it most useful to think of a general and relaxed expansion of the trunk when breathing in. It appears to me that the way the expansion is felt is different for different people and particularly differs between men and women. Breathing out should feel steady and supported. I'm not sure that an instruction along the lines of "tense your stomach muscles" is particularly useful although, in fact, that may be what happens!
 

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It seems each post is directed at the inhalation aspect of the diaphram. What does the diaphram when producing air into the horn? Does it just relax or does one try to push air up with it?
 

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Thanks for the link Jolle.

I find most people can't actually control or visualise the actual diaphragm muscle, so thinking of abdomen out while breating in and vice versa seems to work best.

Also some breathing exercises which came from Sonny Rollins
 

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Lots of good information in this thread. However, a word of warning!

As usual, I am reading SOTW while eating my sandwiches at my desk. I defy anyone to read this thread without doing some pretty heavy breathing experimenting, and I don't feel particularly good round the middle now. :(:)
 
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