I'm Kristal Cherelle, R&B Vocal Coach and Founder of Indie Artist School!

This is my blog all about how to sing better and the ins and outs of vocal coaching and singing r&b!

How to Sing from Your Diaphragm and Sing Longer Notes


Watch the video

Today we're going to talk about how to sing longer and not just single notes but also long phrases without taking extra breaths. One of the fundamental things to understand when you're trying to sing notes longer is learning how to breathe.

Learning how to breathe and sing from your diaphragm correctly really helps you with any challenging phrasing where there are a lot of words
in a song or if there's a song with many sustained notes like ballads.

Whether you've been singing for years or just started, there are some things that you're doing naturally well. But there might be some things you're doing that you need to improve for your progress.


There are things you need to be doing with your posture to be
prepared to take full breaths. The first thing you need
to do is stand upright or sit down upright. But either way, you want
to ensure that your spine is straight up and down

Another critical aspect is ensuring that your neck is in a neutral position. You don't want your head too far forward, backward, up, or down. This neutral head position will be more critical when the note is released later. But if you start in a neutral position, it helps eliminate a lot of
problems moving forward. 

Next is your shoulders and chest. Let's lump those two together. You want to make sure that your shoulders are down and back and your chest is upright. You don't want your chest to be caved in or puffed up high, making it much harder for you to take full breaths. You want the most relaxed position that your body can be in without doing anything artificial to manipulate your shape.

If you must use a lot of muscles to pull yourself up, you're expending wasted effort and energy. In addition, it adds more tension in your body than you need, which is counterproductive to expanding fully and taking a good breath.
So, when preparing to take a breath, make a mental checklist.
Chest relaxed in a neutral position. Check. 
Shoulders down in a neutral position. Check! 
Neck neutral, all right! 
When everything's good with your posture, you can focus on what's happening with your diaphragm. 
Taking your breath
When you're breathing, you need first to isolate your diaphragm. You do this by ensuring that you feel an expansion in your diaphragm as you breathe in. You'll feel your belly expand like a balloon when breathing correctly. 

One way to monitor the placement of your breathing is by placing your hands around your waist, right underneath your rib cage. You should be able to feel a little squishy part of your muscles right underneath.

You want to ensure that as you breathe in, your hands expand outwards every time. You should feel a push outwards against your thumbs
as well. This outward push below your ribcage indicates that you're using your diaphragm rather than your chest. 

It may take a few tries to get this diaphragm isolation right. But once you've got that down, you're ready for the next step! Which is incredibly important to sustaining notes and singing from the diaphragm. So much, I will spend the most time explaining this part. 


Support is the most important when sustaining or singing long notes. Your breath carries every note you sing, which I'm sure you already know. 
But you're probably wondering how to do it without feeling exhausted, weak, or completely losing your breath midway through.

Let's start with what not to do. One of the most common things new singers do when they first try to sing a long note is, shove their stomachs in like they're doing a sit-up or a crunch. The runner-up is caving their chest in and pushing their shoulders down to force their notes out.

Either one of these techniques is the quickest way to
run out of breath quickly and not support the note for long stretches. While this might work for short bursts of air, it is not sustainable for long notes and stamina. In fact, not using proper breath support can increase your likelihood of straining and cause vocal injury! And also severely deteriorates the quality of the note you're singing.

Try this instead! "Ha, Ha, Ha's" Vocal Exercise

Instead of shoving your belly in or caving in your chest, you must do quite the opposite!

Utilize your pelvic floor. Instead of pushing inward, it's going to feel like you're pushing out. One way to gauge this is the awareness of the lower part of your belly pushing out. You're going to notice the better
you get at this; the less movement occurs at your chest and shoulders. 

To practice this, say a few loud "ha ha ha's", like you're laughing.
But first, stand in front of a mirror to monitor yourself.
Put your hand right on the lower part of your belly, and say,
"ha ha ha." You want to feel your lower abdomen pushing out at the start of each "ha" with little to no movement in your chest and shoulders. Once this happens consistently, you can support your short notes from your diaphragm! Next, it's time to try more extended notes! Start singing your "Ha's" and holding them for longer! Then try other sounds using the same technique.

If you still lose support on long notes using my, "ha, ha, ha" vocal exercise, you need to build up your breath capacity!

Try my Breath Expander exercise to help you expand how much air you take in and how
long you hold a note while using your diaphragm!
Try this! "Breath Expander Vocal Exercise
It helps to have a metronome or something that can keep time for you. Your goal is to increase the time of your hiss gradually!

Doing my "Breath Expander" vocal exercise repetitively makes your lungs stronger and increases your breath capacity. Improving your ability to take in more air and the strength and control of your exhale helps you sustain notes much better!

Take a breath in, take even more air than you usually can, and
then hold your breath for eight counts! 

I know it's a bit uncomfortable--so take your time on this and stop if you feel lightheaded!

After holding that huge breath for eight counts, slowly release
your breath out on an even longer hiss (start with 16 counts out). Then, continue to increase the duration of the hisses over time.

Breath Allocation

Another essential part of supporting your notes is ensuring you're utilizing your breath to the best of your ability, what I call breath allocation. Breath allocation will help you significantly if you have lung power but use all of your air too quickly! Training in breath allocation enables you to ensure you're using just the right amount of air needed for the phrase or note you're singing!

Try this! "Sprinkler" Vocal Exercise

That's where my second exercise comes in. This one is called the sprinkler. I like the sprinkler because it helps you understand how to project notes from your diaphragm and sustain them equally. In addition, the sprinkler exercise enables you to focus on avoiding taking too much or too little air.

You do the sprinkler by taking a deep breath in for two counts
and hissing out for eight short pulses, and an eight-count long hiss all on one exhale, making you sound like a sprinkler...get it? 
hss, hss, hss, hss, hsssssssss...

While doing this exercise, you want to gauge the power behind your hisses! Are they stronger at the beginning and weaker at the end? Are you running out of air? Do you have air left over? Continue this exercise until the hisses are even and natural, and you can complete your hiss fully without running out or having air left over. Then, gradually increase your hiss to 16 pulses with a 16-count long hiss, 24/24, and so on. For more advanced singers, tweak my sprinkler exercise to include singing a vowel for each pulse and holding that vowel on the "long hiss" portion of the training.

The Big Takeaways

Now you know what the foundation of singing from your diaphragm entails. While it is a complex issue, learning how to fix it doesn't have to be! Awareness is the first step, and you've got that now! Focusing on improving your posture, isolating your diaphragm, support, and breath allocation will help you sing from your diaphragm with ease!

I hope these diaphragm exercises and tips are helpful to you and help you to sing longer and stronger! Want to take your voice to the next level? 
Get 1:1 r&b vocal coaching sessions with me here: www.indieartistschool.com

Happy singing!

Kristal Cherelle
R&B Vocal Coach & Founder of Indie Artist School

How to Belt High Notes without Cracking

La, la, la, *quack*…I mean crack?

Have you ever sounded like a duck?

This is what happens when singers flip from chest to head voice unintentionally. It can sound like a break in their voice if done harshly enough, unofficially referred to as quacking.

This happens most often when a singer is singing large intervals (notes that are far from each other). But not always — sometimes it happens, seemingly, out of the blue. The singer will find themselves singing normally and then suddenly the tone and color of the notes they sing sound lighter at best, weak, unstable, and completely mute at worst.

What is this phenomenon, and how can a singer overcome it?

The biggest culprit for a sudden change in tone is vocal placement. Each vocal register a singer sings in (chest, mixed, head voice, falsetto) has a specific vocal placement that helps the singer have resonant notes.

What are resonant notes?

Have you ever been in an empty house with no furniture? Maybe you just moved in, and all of your furniture is still sitting in the u-haul. You might have tried to sing or yell in that empty room if you're anything like me. Why? Because your voice sounds fantastic. It echoes — it reverberates around the room. Your voice has a larger space to reverberate, and there are no couches or other items to dampen the sound. Your voice has more…resonance.

Vocal placement is like the shape of a room, which can be changed by the addition or removal of items. There are things that we can do with the shape of our mouth and the placement of our tongue to aid the resonance of certain pitches.

With this particular issue of a singer unintentionally singing from chest to head voice — the singer is skipping a register entirely by not adjusting their vocal placement. Which register? The mixed register!

Every singer is different, but chances are, if singing low is a breeze and singing higher becomes more of a strain, they likely have a tongue that is dropped in the back of the throat when it should be raised.

Vocal placement is a subtle art, raise your tongue too high, and you’ll find yourself sounding too nasally. Drop your tongue too low, and you’ll sound like Kermit, the frog. It is a delicate balance.

Experiment by gradually moving your tongue from a neutral/relaxed position and slightly raising it as you slide vocally into higher notes.

Also, you will find circumstances when you want to have a sudden flip between the chest and head voice for the sake of the song/emotion etc.

The key is to learn how to do things intentionally and in a healthy way with your voice!

Want to take your voice to the next level? 
Get 1:1 r&b vocal coaching sessions with me here: www.indieartistschool.com

Happy singing!

Kristal Cherelle
R&B Vocal Coach & Founder of Indie Artist School