Exercising the larynx

I think it is very important for singers to get to know their larynx. The larynx is the mechanism that houses your vocal cords. You can put your finger on the bump on your throat and find your larynx. Good singers have a larynx that is flexible. It can move up and down, and tilt forward.

You can easily make the larynx move up by swallowing. It will move up to close off your windpipe so food doesn’t enter when you eat.

Getting the larynx to go down isn’t so easy. For some, it is a coordination they have never experienced, and therefore the muscles required for this coordination have never been used properly.

The possibility of using the wrong muscles when trying to lower larynx are strong. Therefore, I highly recommend seeing a professional vocal coach to ensure you are practising correctly.

Here at Bee Music Studios, all singers learn to control their larynx. We don’t sing our songs with a low larynx, but we do learn the co-ordinations and exercise the muscles that keep the larynx down. We get to know what it feels like. We enjoy the rich, deep, beautiful tones that a lower larynx can provide. This co-ordination is very important for mixing, and for singing your high notes with beautiful tone and resonance.

Here is a video of Justin Stoney from Voice Lessons to the World. He says it all. Take a look.

The Breathy Voice

Many singers are told and believe a breathy voice is harmful. This isn’t necessarily true.

Bottom line, too much of any one thing can be harmful. But having the control over a breathy voice can be a great thing. You need lots of breath to belt and to sing long phrases. The key is the ability to allow that breath to pass through the vocal cords in a controlled manner.

Singers who “pull chest” quite often are not allowing enough air too pass through the cords as they ascend in pitch. In other words, they may squeeze the cords to stop the air creating over-compression. These singers tend to get louder as they sing higher.

Next time you are singing the chorus of your song, try to add a little more air. If you “flip” into falcetto, it could mean you need to work on the control of adding more breath. Try to sing with less volume.  Involve your chest and abdomen in the physical control needed to control your breath. Try and find that balance where you feel the same freedom at the bottom of your range as you do at the top.

Questions? Why not drop me a line. Susie

 

Say goodbye to strain

What exactly is singing with strain?

Basically, it means a singer is over-compressing the vocal cords. Over-compressing is “squeezing” or “pushing” the sound out, instead of simply allowing the sound to release with good cord closure. This can happen a lot when singing high notes. We tend to “reach” or “squeeze” to sing our high notes.

Try doing your vocal exercises and your favourite songs (especially the high notes) while:

1. Lying down on your back, flat on the floor.

2. Walking around the room.

3. Holding a book in each hand while holding your arms out (like flying a plane).

What do you notice about your singing effort now? Is it more challenging to get the tone you want than standing in one place? Is your tone it breathier?

I suggest you keep vocalizing with these new ideas for a few weeks. You should start to notice breathiness (falcetto) start to lessen as your vocal cords get stronger at cord closure with the correct coordination. You should also notice you are much more relaxed while singing giving way to a free and flexible voice!

 

Singing “down” on high notes

I reached for high notes for years and years.

It wasn’t until I had professional voice training that I learned the secret to landing on high notes from above.

Visualizations can help. In my studio we try a few things. Students decide what works best for themselves.

Try moving your arm and point further down the higher your notes go.

Try leaning forward as your notes go higher.

Visualize a small area on the back of your upper soft palate that you press on as you sing higher.

Visualize singing down your throat as you sing higher.

Why not give some of these ideas a try and let me know what you think. Did it help? Are you singing with less strain on your high notes? Is your tone improved?

Types of voices

Singing starts with our speaking voice….and we are all blessed with a speaking voice that is uniquely our own.

Some people have a breathy voice, while others don’t. Some people have thick cords while others have thin. Some people have a larynx that sits higher in their throat than others. Some people have short tongues, while others have long. Some have limited jaw mobility.

As you can see, the list is endless for physical reasons why you sound the way you do.

It’s always a good idea to learn from a professional the type of speaking voice you have. Good singing starts with good speaking.  Good speaking requires the same vocal habits as good singing.

There is a singing coach who is also a speaking coach names Roger Love. I believe he trained in speech level singing years ago. He has loads of valuable resources. Check out his website here. http://www.rogerlove.com/

Day 2

Day 2, same as Day 1.

I thought I would share with you some of the details that I pay attention to while I’m vocalizing.

#1   I keep the volume the same throughout. The challenge is bringing out the volume of my low notes, while not pushing for my high notes.

#2   I remind myself the FIRST note after an intake of air is the most important. If the first note doesn’t get good closure, the notes that follow certainly will not.

#3   I check my jaw for tension by occasionally allowing an up and down movement (almost bouncy).

#4   I make sure my larynx is  ”neutral” and free. How do I know? I put my finger on it. I’m careful not to confuse the sensation of tilting with the sensation of rising too high. Rising too high will cause a straining or choking feeling in my throat.

#5  I incorporate exercises with a slight  ”dopey” sound to maintain a sense of low larynx.

#6 I incorporate tongue-out exercises. I’m careful to note the “tug-of-war” sensation between a “neutral” larynx and the tongue hanging out.  I consider the volume of my mix where I can bridge successfully, while staying relaxed and in control of my voice.

#7  I always engage my rib cage and upper stomach to ensure my breath intake and output is balanced.

#8 I pay attention to the edge of my vocal cords. I listen and feel for a crisp, clean glottal attack with a beautiful warm vowel to follow. I manage this with careful attention to my volume, as well as incorporating the “cry” at the onset of the first note following a breath intake.

#9    I allow myself to run out of breath. This engages my body and instinctively helps me engage my rib cage and back muscles as I catch my next quick intake of air. I’m careful not to tense up my neck, throat or shoulders. I am aware of the sensation of my body rhythmically being involved with my breathing. This is a huge part of my control.

#10  I only start to increase my overall volume when I have everything in good control.

How about you? How did your day go?

 

 

 

So, I’ve fallen off the wagon

It happens, right? Even though I know that keeping my voice “in shape” means doing my exercises daily, I haven’t been practising what I preach.

Oh, I have my excuses…it started with a bad cold in the fall, and then I was so busy at Christmas….I never had any time for vocalizing. And then we set into this cold, long winter, and well, I just haven’t felt like it. Did I mention this winter is cold and looooonnnnnngggg?

Well excuses, no more! My voice has definitely suffered. My second passagio is breathy, and my third one is almost non-existent!

Stay tuned. I will be vocalizing morning and night for about 30 minutes each, and singing songs for another two hours.That’s a total of 3 hours singing per day.

I figure if I write it down for the world to see, I will do it! I will return my voice to that sweet sound once again.

I will keep you posted about my improvements. Why not join me? It’s more fun to exercise together!

 

But, it sounds so much better at home!

There are a few reasons why you are sounding better at home, than anywhere else.

First, I’m sure you are most relaxed when you are at home. Being relaxed when you sing will stop constriction and allow your voice to resonate.

Second, your volume. There is a good chance you are trying to sing too loud in your band, or at karaoke. Check your volume. Try not to let the outside noise influence how loud you are singing. Try to internalize the sound of your voice to make a beautiful tone “within your head”. Make sure you anchor your stance and engage your chest and ribs for a supported sensation. If you have a microphone, this will help you. If not, the audience will need to be quiet, and listen!

 

What is Twang?

The simplest way to explain twang, is to say that the cords do a remarkable thing when they are aligned correctly. They will stretch and thin because the larynx is tilting. There is a “funnel” created which is like having an extra resonating chamber in your throat. Your voice will “pop”! You can achieve volume without pushing or straining.

The easiest way to achieve this coordination is by imitating sounds. However, too much imitation causes all kinds of problems….so always pay attention to the smallest details.

If you listen to a baby cry, you can hear freedom and release. They are not “pushing” (or they would go hoarse!) They have twang in their voice. Go ahead…no singing, just cry like a baby and take note of what it feels like in the back of your throat!

Now, of course, we don’t want to have to “cry” every time we sing, or do we? Believe it or not, there is an element of “cry” sensation in every great singer’s voice. Try this: I have my students say “mmm, mmm” like something is really yummy. It is just a noise. No singing. There is no sound coming out your mouth. It feels like a buzzy hum. We do this sound in our low voice and carry it up and down our range. Note what it feels like in your throat and on the roof of your mouth at the back where the tongue is touching the soft palate. Be sure to keep it light, at least at first. You need to exercise this sound on the edges of the cords. It may become breathy as you go up in your range. Some singers don’t have the coordination yet to stretch those cords enough so the edges can meet. This is the exercise! Find the spot where you know you are making this sound with good cord closure, and then move one note higher. Do this every day paying attention to this small detail. The cords are small little muscles. If no sound comes out, that’s OK. Take it down one note, and do it again. You are on the right track. DO NOT PUSH. That is only counter-productive.
There are other sounds you can try such as quacking like a duck. Again, please take note that too much quacking will result in constriction! Instead, consider what that feels like in the back of your throat as you do this sound in your low, middle and high range. Keep it light. Constriction is most likely to happen in your high range, so take it easy and pay attention to the “thinner” edges of the sound. Again, it may be breathy…but this means you are on the right track!
I hope this information is helpful! Remember, learning to sing better doesn’t happen overnight so enjoy the journey!

Institute for Vocal Advancement

If you haven’t heard about the Institute for Vocal Advancement, then check out their website here http://www.vocaladvancement.com/

This organization is run by a group of fine teachers, mostly of whom are previous master teachers from the Speech Level Singing organization run by Seth Riggs.

I believe this organization has much to offer both students and teachers.  It is the same sound instruction that SLS offers by a group dedicated to staying in touch with the latest developments in vocal science.

I have quoted a section about technique from their website below. It is well said, and explains to singers exactly why we need to exercise our voice regularly and correctly.

Why is Technique So Important:  Singers don’t have frets like guitar players, or keys like piano players.  We don’t have a volume knob. In order for us singers to change pitch and volume we have to rely on finding and maintaining vocal balance. Problems start when that balance goes out of whack.  Unbalanced vocal qualities like singing too airy, too husky, too tight, too squeezed, or too pushed, can contribute to throwing your voice out of balance.