I am happy, nay thrilled, to say that just playing my French horn 15-20 minutes a day for a couple of weeks has made a notable difference in my diaphragm (the tummy kind not the kootch kind) control. Last night, I had my first session with the accompanist I practice with, and there was a real difference.
I knew playing the horn would help with my breath control and support, but I am surprised at how fast it is helping.
Why does playing the French horn strengthen the diaphragm? Well, the French horn is a coiled tube that if unwound, would measure about 12 feet long, and it has a relatively small mouthpiece – which means you need a lot of pressure to get the air through the tubing and out the other end. The resistance caused by blowing against pursed lips through the long tubing causes a situation known as Valsalva’s maneuver, an increase in pressure inside the chest cavity that can interfere with the blood supply to the heart, the researchers said.
Other situations that cause the Valsalva maneuver include when a person holds his breath and tightens his muscles while moving a heavy object.
Also, horn playing (as well as some other instruments like the oboe) has been associated with an immediate and progressive increase in diastolic (blood) pressure. The higher the note the greater the increase in diastolic pressure.
Luckily, I do not have high blood pressure (and since I am playing what I want to play, I can stay away from those nasty really high notes), so this is not an issue for me.
Another reason, it’s working quickly, I think, is because a lot of this is just muscle memory that needed a bit of reminding. I’ve played the horn, off and on, since 6th grade (and that was lo these many years ago, my friends).
So although I cannot accompany myself on the French horn, there is a definite benefit in playing the French horn when it comes to my singing.
So if I want to keep singing, I need to keep toodling, and I want to keep singing.