Pharyngeal sounds

For those of you familiar with speech level singing exercises, the nasty “nay” sound is probably all-too-familiar. This is a sound that many singers do wrong. The goal here is to feel the resonance behind the cheek bone and nasal area, not in the mouth or at the back of the throat.

In Estill Voice Technique this sound is the schoolyard sing-song taunt. Again, it can be done incorrectly if you are using the wrong coordination.

The challenge is making this sound above the first passagio.

I suggest starting with a puppy dog whimper in your head voice. This will get your cords thinned out. Close your mouth and work this whimper in a hum. Raise your cheeks and think a “cry-like” sound.  If you are having trouble, take your volume down to a level where you can manage a simple light coordination of a whimper sound in your head voice. Keep your mouth closed……now you have thin cords.  Your larynx may want to rise, and certainly the ideal condition is for it to remain neutral. Take note of this. To counter the raising of the larynx, consider what is going on inside your mouth at the back of your throat. Lift your soft palate as best you can.

I suggest making this your home base. Men, this will be around F or F# above middle C, and ladies, this will be around high C or C#.

Once you can master the puppy dog whimper in your head voice, then you need to work the whimper through the first passagio. For men, you need to master the whimper from F# below middle C to F# above middle C.  Ladies, middle C# to high C#. If you feel a “catch” in your voice, then you simply need to do it over and over and over every day until that “catch” evens out. (If you practise everyday, it will eventually even out).

Consider taking the volume down to the point where you can master this.  Do the whimper both ascending and descending. You can turn this into a continuous whimper siren if you like. Notice your head voice is clearly present. Try to coordinate a balance that works for you. In other words, the lowest notes are predominantly chest voice and your head voice needs to allow this transition. The high whimper is mostly head voice, so again you need to allow this transition. If you find this challenging, then consider your volume again. There will definitely be a level where you can coordinate this transition. You might not be happy with the sound…..but that doesn’t matter. It’s not about the sound! It’s about the coordination. This is your starting point. Do not increase your volume until you can master this transition of puppy dog whimper through your first passagio.

So, now that you have good cord closure and you are mixing well through your first passagio, you can actually begin to work on your pharyngeal sounds like the nasty “nay” or “meow” sounds.

The nagging “flip”

So this topic comes back and nags me every know and then. Actually, almost everytime I see a musical play.

Doesn’t it bother anyone to listen to a female singer with “two” voices? These singers who have a beautifully developed head voice all the way down to their belly button.

Of course, that’s the problem. The transition into mouth and hard palate resonance and the presence of “twang” just doesn’t happen very well, and these singers are left trying to figure out how to sing the middle notes around their first passagio. They are either yelling at the top of their chest register, or singing in their head voice only.

I’ve said it before….thank goodness I didn’t have singing lessons as a kid….or I could be one of them!