I can still remember having trouble pronouncing the word “larynx” when I first started SLS training. Even though I had studied the voice for years, other teachers hardly ever talked about that funny little bump in the middle of my throat. Once I started studying Speech Level Singing and other modern vocal techniques, the larynx was one of the many topics I began to understand in better detail.
If your current voice teacher can’t or doesn’t explain to you why you are doing certain exercises, then there is a good chance he/she doesn’t actually know. I did exercises for years, without being told why or understanding why. Now, I always explain to my students why and what we are working on.
Keeping your larynx (your voice box which encases your vocal cords) stable and reasonably low is highly recommended when singing. It ensures a healthy and relaxed mode for the voice, especially as you sing higher. I love this video…you can watch Brett Manning from Singing Success manipulate his larynx here with different sounds. http://www.youtube.com/user/SingingSuccess?ob=0
The yawn works wonders. I like to use woo, woo, woo on a 1 1/2 octave scale with the low larynx. The student keeps a finger on the Adam’s apple to feel the changes as the notes get higher. There are a few things to watch for as you progress from the exaggerated low larynx to a more-neutral position. This is why it’s so important to have a trained coach watch you do the exercises.
If you can relax and sing freely with a low larynx with the woo woo woo exercise, then you should notice that your jaw feels very loose (even as you get higher). It should be able to bounce (move up and down) slightly as you pronounce the word “woo”. If you feel your jaw fighting you and wanting to stay still, then you are not truly free. Lessen your volume, don’t worry about your sound, and simply say “woo” in that yawny-feeling. Keep a pouty, relaxed, mouth. Visualize the word “woo” as tall and thin. Remember, your job is not to “sound good” during the exercise. Your job is to understand and remember the feeling (assuming you are doing it correct!).
Once you can sing this with a relaxed jaw, you can then switch to goo goo goo to ensure the cords are staying connected through your bridges. Notice, the narrow oooo vowel should make the transition to your high register fairly easy. Then try switching to “go, go, go” and finally “gee, gee, gee”. Keep the same easy feeling that “woo, woo, woo” established, and go back to this if you’re having trouble. If you find these easy, then move on to “ba, ba, ba” and “na, na, na”.
Give these a try and let me know what you think. How does it feel to you? Can you sing through your songs any easier after vocalizing with a low larynx?