Now is the right time to become an American Federation of Musicians member. From ragtime to rap, from the early phonograph to today's digital recordings, the AFM has been there for its members. And now there are more benefits available to AFM members than ever before, including a multi-million dollar pension fund, excellent contract protection, instrument and travelers insurance, work referral programs and access to licensed booking agents to keep you working.
As an AFM member, you are part of a membership of more than 80,000 musicians. Experience has proven that collective activity on behalf of individuals with similar interests is the most effective way to achieve a goal. The AFM can negotiate agreements and administer contracts, procure valuable benefits and achieve legislative goals. A single musician has no such power.
The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.
Like the industry, the AFM is also changing and evolving, and its policies and programs will move in new directions dictated by its members. As a member, you will determine these directions through your interest and involvement. Your membership card will be your key to participation in governing your union, keeping it responsive to your needs and enabling it to serve you better. To become a member now, visit www.afm.org/join.
June 23, 2015IM -
by Donald L. Banschbach of Local 10-128 (Chicago, IL)
Whether you’re a wind instrumentalist or singer, you have probably heard the phrase “use your diaphragm” many times throughout the course of your career from teachers and fellow musicians. This instruction concerns the constant flow of air supported by the group of muscles that musicians and singers employ for optimal sound in their performances. To support air flow, singers and instrumentalists use forced inspiration and forced expiration of breath, essentially turning the human body into an air pump.
How It Works
Air pumps, like the human respiratory system, draw in air from the atmosphere and expel it into a container such as a balloon. The human trunk is divided into two large cavities, the thoracic cavity, which contains the lungs and heart, and the abdominal cavity, which contains the stomach and intestines. The diaphragm, a large dome-shaped muscle, separates these two cavities.
Using forced inspiration, the musician’s diaphragm lowers the floor of the thoracic cavity, while increasing the volume inside the cavity. At the same time the muscles between the ribs (external intercostals) elevate the rib cage. The dual action enlarges the thoracic cavity, sucking air into the tiny alveoli sacks filling the lungs with air—think of the action of an air pump with the diaphragm as the plunger.
At this point in the breathing process, the musician or singer is ready to force air through the mouthpiece or vocal cords. The human girdle (made up of the transversalis abdominis, external and internal oblique muscles) now forces the stomach and intestines against the lateral side of the diaphragm. This reduces the size of the thoracic cavity. Simultaneously, the internal intercostals (musculature between the ribs) lower the ribs, reducing the size of the rib cage. This joint action is similar to squeezing your hands together forcing the air out of a balloon.
The volume of air used for forced inspiration and forced expiration, is known as the musician’s vital capacity. This volume, measuring in cubic centimeters (cc), varies from clarinet player to tuba player or rock singer to opera star. Females generally average 3,000 cc of lung capacity and males 5,000 cc. Variations in vital capacity between individuals or across the sexes does not seem to hinder performance levels. However, a musician’s height, weight, and age can affect vital capacity. It is the general opinion of the medical community that regular physical exercise increases vital capacity. Forced inspiration and forced expiration, as used by wind musicians, increases the capacity. This exercise of the lungs increases oxygen in the blood stream, blows off carbon dioxide, and is a contributing factor to the health of the musician.
Avoiding Improper Technique
When the diaphragm is used correctly, the abdomen will project forward or push out, while the musicians inhales. A “heaving chest” occurs when a musician or singer fails to use the diaphragm properly. It is a sign that the diaphragm is not being used to full capacity since the breath will jerk the rib cage upwards instead of expanding the stomach. While this heaving action makes it possible for the musician to achieve some degree of vital capacity, there is a major problem with this type of breathing. The external intercostals, in between the ribs, are acting on their own and cannot achieve the airflow required for maximum musical performance. A formula for the proper muscle use in inhaling and exhaling might read as follows:
Forced inspiration = diaphragm + external intercostals assisting
Forced expiration = abdominals + internal intercostals assisting
To get a better sense of how to use the diaphragm properly, place the tips of your fingers on your belly and inhale. As you inhale, your belly should expand as the air enters your lungs and your fingers should feel as if they are moving away from the body. As you exhale, the belly should cave in and your fingers travel inwards.
Practice breathing, separate from when you are rehearsing music, to accustom the body to correct breathing for optimal performance.