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.

Tongue out and hum exercise

My last post was about the tongue and how it can get in the way when you are singing.

When you let your tongue hang out over your bottom lip, it cannot interfere with the back of your throat and stop you from mixing. This is a great way to exercise your voice, although you can look pretty silly doing it!

Try this: Choose a song where the highest pitches are above your passagio….(for women that is A, B flat, B or higher, and men that is E, F, F# or higher).

Let your tongue hang out and hum your song.  If you feel strain in your throat while humming the highest pitches, then lighten up. Try again with less volume.

If you feel the need to “flip” or “let go” in order to achieve the highest notes without strain, no worries! You are now in your head register but having trouble keeping the cords connected as you ascend in pitch.

With careful attention to the engagement of your body (from the top of your stomach and down…including your back and buttocks), and also attention to how loud you are humming your song, you should be able to hum your high pitches without disconnecting the cords (falcetto).

Once you have found this balance where you can hum your high pitches while keeping your vocal cords connected, it is time to allow some of the sound to come out of your mouth. Do not move on to the next exercise unless you can indeed hum your entire song with your tongue out….even if it appears to have no power or substance. If you do this exercise regularly with your songs, your cords will get stronger and allow you to hum with more pressure (volume).

There is more to tell about this delicate yet fascinating exercise. Stay tuned!


What’s your larynx doing?

There is a lot of information out there about the ideal position of the larynx for singing.

This post is to help shed some light on the “variables” associated with your larynx.

SLS (speech level singing) teaches you that the larynx should remain “stable” or “neutral”.

I’m not a big fan of this description, although I understand why it is described that way. Let me explain.

It is typical for an amateur singer to “reach” for high notes. The sensation of reaching for high notes is a choking or tight feeling in the throat. Basically what is happening here, is the larynx is going too high, and the muscles in the larynx are “gripping”. In these cases, the larynx is not tilting, and the false cords are engaging causing a tight or squeezed sound.

Singers who mix well in their high register are doing so because the laryngeal muscles are able to stretch and thin the vocal cords while the larynx is tilted. A good example of laryngeal tilt is the resonating sound of the puppy dog whimper, or nay, nay, nay in a high mixed voice. You will notice a buzzy, resonating sensation on your upper palate and high up in the back of your mouth. Some people describe it as a nasty or brassy sound.

When a singer is mixing well, the larynx is agile and flexible. The larynx will naturally tilt forward and rise slightly when ascending in pitch, and the larynx will naturally fall back into a more neutral position when descending in pitch.

Questions? Please let me know!

Check out Brett Manning’s mouth

Brett and his associates don’t talk much about your mouth or your soft palate, but take a look at him here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx-BpQFbLrg

Do you see his teeth and the wide smile? I love this! This is exactly the placement for singing high notes, regardless of the style (unless you are singing opera or classical). This wide smile and lifted upper mouth allows the vowels to resonate cleanly and nicely in the head voice.

Also, note the sob (moan), and “cry” to his voice. This is essential for good vocal cord closure.

Try it! Don’t sing too loud. Just allow those high notes to blend with the low ones, and VOILA!

Singer/songwriters and key choice

This post is for singers who also write songs.

Do you know your voice well enough to write sounds around your best sounds? Your money notes are not necessarily going to be the same as other songwriters. I can’t stress enough how important the key choice for your song is.

I had a student this week who came in with an original song in the key of E. His biggest note in the chorus was E (above middle C) with a little slur up to G# and back down. He was singing with great passion, but the E note was tight. We transposed it down to D and he sounded so much better. The problem was the guitar licks didn’t work with the song transposed. He then had to decide whether to compromise the sound of his voice or change his guitar licks.

Knowing your range, and the quality of sound you can produce on the big notes is very important. For men these big notes can be anywhere from D to G (above middle C) depending on your range and quality of your voice. For women these notes can be anywhere from A to D (above middle C).

It’s particularly important that you learn to pick songs and write songs that work well for your voice type. It shouldn’t be your goal to sing like someone else. It should be your goal to know your voice, and what it can do well. Then transpose your favourite songs into the range that best suits your voice.

What do you think? Do you sing songs in keys other than the original?

The “Carrie Underwood” / “Kelly Clarkson” type of voice

I wanted to talk about this type of voice, because the configuration to get it isn’t what most people think.

When I have a student trying to sing in this style, I quite often hear a lot pf chest register being yelled at a high pitch that usually sounds dull, painful and, to say the least, quite unpleasant.

It isn’t uncommon for singers to try and duplicate this type of sound with their chest voice…it is however, the wrong approach.

Instead, the singer needs the practise “twang” in the head register. (Try quacking like a duck, or sounding nasty like a witch). You should be able to do this easily without any constriction or tightening in the throat. What usually happens is the head voice is not able to twang easily, and the student will over-compensate with throat muscles. Sometimes the singer will “flip” into falcetto mode.

Both Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have a superb ability to twang in their head register. This gives the listener the illusion of a powerful chest register volume, when in fact, they are not using much chest register at all. They are, in fact, in a middle voice/head register configuration with a lot of twang.

Secondly, the vocal cords are under a great deal of breath pressure. In other words, the singer is able to hold back a lot of breath without flipping to falcetto.  This ability allows for great mouth and head resonance and again gives the listener the illusion of great power and volume.

Two singers that come to mind that do sing too high in their chest register at times are Adele and Christine Aguilera. Even though they both sing very differently, they both sing very loud and very high in their low register. Christine Aguilera has only had trouble with this as she has gotten older. Her ability to sing in a loud chest, middle and head voice mode through her entire range when she was younger made her a superstar.  She is still a superb singer, but as she gets older her cords have probably thickened from singing so hard in her chest register. Thick folds can make it hard for a singer to ascend into their head register and keep control of their voice.

Do you have any questions or comments? Please leave them here.