I am going to explain very simply something that confused me for years and years.
All singers hear the word “support” from the time we start singing. And it takes on all kinds of interpretations both helpful and unhelpful.
The most important thing to understand about this potentially misleading term is that it is dynamic, it is moving.
I often tell my students, “If you’re breathing, you’re moving.” We never hold a note, we move a note, we flow it.
I want to break down how I understand dynamic support in the way that is the most straightforward and usable to me.
Inhale: After you exhale, gently lower your jaw, let your vocal folds open, and as your diaphragm descends and your rib cage expands, the thoracic cavity gets bigger, so air rushes in. Thanks physics.
Exhaling for singing: After a nice gentle (and silent) inhale, you want your ribs to remain nice and open. This is technically a function of keeping your external rib muscles engaged (the ones used for inhaling that pull your ribs up and out).
I like to think of the image of my rib cage continuing to float. While that’s going on, you want to use your abdominal muscles (mainly transverse and obliques) to slowly move the air out of your lungs.
Basically, you’re letting your ribs stay in the state of inhale-expansion while the abdominal muscles harness the upward movement of the diaphragm.
The simple way to trace this is to focus on the slow, continuous inward movement of the navel toward the spine while the ribs and solar plexus remain out.
One way to practice this coordination is to inhale, let the ribs and abdominal cavity easily expand (all around, front sides and back). Then on your exhale, keep the ribs expanded while you let your abdominals contract to move the air out. This is the coordination without the resistance from closed, vibrating vocal folds.
Then when we sing, we can tune back in to this coordination and then determine just how much dynamic support we need phrase by phrase.
What I have found to be true most of the time: we usually need gentler muscular energy from the abdominals than we initially think.