Singing For Dummies
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Your lungs, which are housed within your rib cage, allow the ribs to open as you inhale — and for singers, letting them stay open on the exhale is beneficial. This is also known as outie breathing, or appoggio (that’s Italian for “support” or “lean”). Don’t force your ribs to stay open, but allow them to stay open.

Even if the words force and allow seem similar, they’re different. Forcing the ribs to stay open results in pressure being put on your body and a tight sound.

When you’ve been working with breath for some time and you can easily manage quick, efficient inhalation and have some control over longer exhalation, try the exercise that follows.

  1. Practice flexing open your ribs.

    Stand in front of the mirror and try to open your rib cage. You want to open your ribs on the side of your body, not raise your chest. Watch the movement in your body to make sure that you’re not lifting your chest.

    It may take a few tries before you can figure out how to open the ribs. When you know how to move them, allow the ribs to open as you inhale. The area that you’re trying to move is at the bottom of the rib cage.

  2. Inhale and open your ribs.

    Practice inhaling and allow your ribs to open. If you aim the air at the lowest rib, you can open the ribs without forcing your chest to rise.

  3. Work for a time just allowing your ribs to open when you inhale and to close as you exhale.

    As this becomes easier, allow the ribs to stay open longer on the exhalation.

  4. Inhale and allow your ribs to open.

    Leave the ribs open as you exhale. Take the next breath and allow your abdominal muscles to expand.

  5. Now that your ribs are open and your abdominal muscles are expanded, exhale.

    As you exhale, allow the abs to move in as the ribs stay out.

  6. As you reach the end of your breath, allow the ribs to gradually close or collapse back to their normal position.

  7. Exhale, moving your abs first and then your ribs.

The long-term goal of this exercise is to provide you with the option of opening the ribs as you inhale and letting them close by choice, depending on the length of the phrase you’re singing. Try to keep your ribs open if you have to sing a long phrase. This motion may take a month or more to master. Keep trying.

About This Article

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Pamelia S. Phillips is a professional singer with over 35 years of teaching experience. She has designed curriculum for high school students, college BFA programs, and professional training programs, helping thousands of singers refine their singing technique.

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