Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Control" of the Diaphragm

I was looking forward to seeing “The King’s Speech” (my field, after all) until I read that Lionel Logue wrote, after his first consultation, that Prince Albert had poor control of his diaphragm.

No kidding! If we could control our diaphragms, no one would ever hiccup.

Back in college I had a singer friend who was very proud of her diaphragm, which she would display. What she was showing off was what looked like a role of fat below her ribs. Her vocal teacher had told her that that was her diaphragm.

The word “diaphragm” is bandied about by voice and speech teachers who don’t have a clue what the diaphragm is–a horizontal set of muscles between the lungs and the guts. A muscle set that gets pushed down by the lungs when we inhale, and that gets pushed back up the guts when we exhale. A muscle set that gets pushed around, not one that we can “control.”

At least two prominent voice coaches advise bouncing one’s voice off one’s diaphragm. They don’t explain how this can be accomplished anatomically. Nor do they seem to realize that, in advising a student to bounce a sound anywhere, that student is likely to tighten some muscles in the throat to act as the bouncer.

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