Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate and compare the roles of the accessory respiratory muscles, latissimus dorsi (LD), and sternocleidomastoid, in classical singing.
Methods: Electromyography was used to record the activity of these muscles in six classically trained female singers carrying out a number of singing and nonsinging tasks. Movements of the chest and abdominal walls were monitored simultaneously using inductive plethysmography, and the sound of the phonations was recorded.
Results: In normal breathing, LD is active transiently during very deep inhalations and in inhalation against resistance. During exhalation it becomes active again as residual capacity is approached or when air is expelled with great force. Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) supports inhalation when lung volume nears 100% vital capacity or when this is very rapid. All singers engaged LD in supported singing where it was associated with maintaining an expanded thorax. In coloratura singing, pulses of activity of increasing amplitude were often seen in LD toward the end of the breath. These were synchronized with each note. During a short phrase typical of the end of an aria, which was sung at full volume with the projected voice, both LD and SCM were active simultaneously. Spectral analysis of muscle activity demonstrated that in some singers, activity in LD and more rarely SCM, fluctuated in phase with vibrato.
Conclusions: LD appears to play a significant role in maintaining chest expansion and the dynamic processes underlying vibrato and coloratura singing in classically trained singers.
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