The “ng” exercise

Do you ever ask yourself why you do all these exercises?

Each exercise is designed to bring an awareness about a correct coordination that is essential for good singing technique. When you exercise your voice by doing the same coordination over and over again, your larynx will begin to build “muscle memory” and it will become easier over time. It is crucial, however, that you are actually doing the exercise correctly. This is no different than going to the gym to tone the muscles of your body.

One coordination is sliding through your entire range using the “ng” sound, such as in “sing.” I especially like this exercise because it draws close attention to the back of the mouth and tongue area, and the front of the face where you feel the resonance.

Start by saying “sing”. Notice when you reach the end of the word “ng”, your tongue rises to the roof of your mouth in the soft palate (the soft fleshy part at the back). You are actually closing your nasal port and stopping the sound from leaving your mouth. This allows for just head resonance.

Now try to say “sing” in your head register, and hold out the “ng”. (Notice I said say the word “sing” and don’t sing the word “sing”). Take the time to feel this. Don’t push it, and don’t strain. Allow yourself to “just be” in your head register. This may feel like falcetto. You should do all these exercises slowly and quietly. Take note of the sensations. If it is too high, take the note lower.

Can you keep your tongue up and touching the soft palate? If you feel yourself straining in the throat, start over and again “allow” the note to be in your head voice. If you are having trouble staying “connected”, then start over and do it very quietly and very “small”. Does that make it easier?

This coordination is key to building resonance and developing strength in the vocal cords near the edges, as well as stretching the cords (thyroid cartilage tilt). It also brings awareness to the back of the tongue and whether this area is causing you strain.  If you can’t stay connected, then do everything in falcetto. If you do this everyday as much as you can, you will eventually gain enough strength to stay “connected” to your speech level.  (Note, this may make you sound like a cartoon character).

It is very important that you use your body energy and awareness to help with this coordination. In other words, all the “effort” happens below your throat! Do it slowly and quietly, and visualize the fine edges of your vocal cords trying to stay together. Visualize your voice box tilting and stretching to allow the resonance in your face.

Note, you may try and use the wrong muscles of the throat and tongue to “help” you with the sound you are trying to create. This is called constriction. This is why you must be aware. You must take the time and “allow” this sensation. Keep a “happy” or “smile” sensation in your throat to avoid constriction.  It may be something you have never fully felt before. When resonating correctly it should be free, light, forward, buzzy, maybe brassy, and SMALL. Yes, it should feel small!

Learn to love the smallness of your voice!

Questions? Comments? Please let me know.