How to Improve Your Voice Quickly and Naturally Using Support

The concept of support in singing is foundational, and yet in my experience, it is very difficult to find any real explanation on what support actually is and how to employ it properly. My first singing teacher taught me that support was “pushing out”, and other singing methods say that you don’t need to worry about support at all.

In this article, I will basically explain what support is and why it is the “cornerstone” or foundation of correct singing technique. Whether singing or speaking, correct support is the first port of call in answering the question of how to improve your voice.

How To Improve Your Voice – Support Explained

So what is support, and how can we employ it in answering the question of how to improve your voice? Support can be defined as the collision of the two opposing sets of breathing muscles, that when they are applied consistently against one another, the vocal chords are automatically closed by reflex action and kept in a closed position while sound is produced with minimal interference from non-essential muscles.

What a mouthful! So lets break this down and I will talk you through the important points.

Collision of the Breathing Muscles

The first part talks about the collision of two opposing sets of breathing muscles. The breathing muscles we are talking about here are the following:

  1. The diaphragm
  2. The external intercostal muscles
  3. The abdominal muscles
  4. The internal intercostal muscles

The first two sets of muscles control inhalation and the last two sets of muscles control exhalation. These muscles can be seen in the following diagram:

How to improve your voice using the right breathing muscles

The question we must now answer is – how do you generate the collision? Well, the answer is surprisingly simple: just “pull up” before you start to sing, right after you have inhaled. Yep, that is all it takes to support the voice.If you like, you can break it down into 4 steps: inhale, pull up, sing, sustain the support while you sustain the note.

You may have heard in the past that support is about “pushing out”, but in reality it is the exact opposite – you pull up, or lift the abdominal bulk.

The purpose of support is two fold – firstly, to produce a steady column of air that can be passed over the vocal chords so sound can be produced, and secondly to close the vocal chords, which brings us to our next point……

Closing the Vocal Chords

An interesting phenomenon occurs when the two sets of inhalation and exhalation muscles previously mentioned are exerted at the same time against each other when exhaling – the collision of these muscles causes a reflex action that closes the vocal chords.

The important thing to note here is that it is a reflex action! This is the body’s natural way of closing the vocal chords to produce sound. If you take one thing from this point – the act of support or pulling up, automatically closes the vocal chords.

Minimal Interference

The last point I want to cover here is the concept of minimal interference. As mentioned in the point above, the action of pulling up, automatically (by reflex), closes the vocal chords, thus allowing us to produce sound. No other muscles are needed to close the vocal chords.

This is the natural way of singing and speaking, and you can see this in action when you watch a new born baby cry, and cry, and cry. Notice that they never seem to go hoarse.

So, what other muscles can close the vocal chords? It just so happens that the muscles that control the swallowing reflex can also close the vocal chords. This makes sense anatomically, because we don’t want food and drink going down into our lungs! One telltale sign of using the swallowing muscles while singing is a high larynx. This is due to the fact that the larynx rises to fold the epiglottis over the vocal chords, stopping food and drink from entering our lungs.

This can be seen in the following diagram:


While I could delve into much greater detail especially around the anatomy of singing, I wanted to cover the basics of support in this article and why it is foundational to singing and answering the question of how to improve your voice using support. You can learn how to sing better using support starting today by clicking on the link.

If we were to create our own, simpler definition of support, we could say it like this: pull up or lift the abdominal bulk, which will in turn close the vocal chords and allow the larynx and vocal chords to make their own adjustments with minimal interference.

See the following links for more information on the anatomy mentioned in the article:

  • For the Larynx – see here
  • For the Glottis – see here
  • For the Diaphragm – see here
  • For the Vocal Chords – see here
  • For the Breathing Muscles – see here

I hope this article has proven to be insightful and at least has given you a basic understanding of what support is and why it is foundational to singing and how to improve your voice. In the next article I want to cover vocal resonators and explore how to improve singing power and tone, which is the next piece of the puzzle in answering the question of how to improve your voice.

To success in all your singing endeavors.

Andy Barnes

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  • David

    Reply Reply May 25, 2015

    pulling in tightens me up…most push out at epigastrium or a little lower and the navel area naturally pulls in…try it…you might like it better…

  • Evelyn

    Reply Reply December 1, 2015

    What exactly are you meant to “pull up” before you start to sing? Do you mean breathe out into the belly, then and push the air up and out into an expanded ribcage?

    And how can you avoid tension eg. in the muscles and shoulders rising up, while doing this?

  • Raffi

    Reply Reply July 29, 2016

    Hi Andy,

    If veins show in my neck as I sing but my larynx is NOT raised, what does this mean? If my swallowing muscles were being used, then it would raise. Also, my shoulders are not raising so it couldn’t be due to that.

    Having veins popping up even slightly is not a good sign but if that symptom is not due to larynx being raised, what could it be due to?

    Many thanks

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