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This portion of the website is designed to complement the lectures given by me, Paul Manley at the Royal Academy of Music 2007. It covers almost every aspect of anatomy and physiology of voice, breath and respiration that a student of voice might find useful, both in their career as a singer and if they become voice tutors. It is hoped that this website will become a life-long resource for all. It is divided into 7 sections. I hope that you have fun and that you find it as fascinating and informative as it was for me whilst I was creating it.
How do we breathe?
Respiration is a passive, involuntary activity. Air moves in and out of the thorax due to pressure changes. When the diaphragm, the major muscle of respiration, is stimulated, it contracts and moves downward. At the same time, the external intercostals move the rib cage up and out. The chest wall and pleura move out, pulling the pleura and the lung with it. As the volume within the thoracic cavity increases, the pressure within the lung decreases. Intrapulmonary pressure is now lower than atmospheric pressure; thus air flows into the lung — inhalation.
When the diaphragm returns to its normal, relaxed state, the intercostal muscles also relax and the chest wall moves in. The lungs, with natural elastic recoil, pull inward as well and air flows out of the lungs — exhalation.
The lungs should never completely collapse for there is always a small amount of air, called residual volume, in them.
The muscles of respiration:
Inspiration/Expiration Quiet breathing (primary muscles): diaphragm, external intercostals, elastic recoil of lung tissue surface tension and gravity on the internal intercostal muscles.
Forced (secondary or accessory muscles): sternomastoid, scalenes, pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior, serratus posterior, superior upper iliocostalis, abdominals: external oblique, internal oblique, rectus abdominus, lower iliocostalis, lower longissimus, serratus posterior inferior, quadratus lumborum and latissimus dorsi.