The ability to tilt the larynx happens at the thyroid cartilage and the cricoid cartilage (in the larynx) which are connected at the cricothyroid joint. There is a space in between that can be either open or closed. Tilting happens when the space is closed.
Working on the ‘ng’ sound through your break will work the small muscles that tilt the thyroid cartilage. If you are breathy as you ascend through your bridge, then you need to practise the thyroid tilt daily.
Another great sound that helps tilt is the puppy dog whimper. Again, key is ascending upward through your passagio without getting louder. (Use your breath control and body anchoring from your neck down to try and achieve this sound).
With speech level singing, one of the main directives is to sing in your mix. Your mixed voice is simply the ability to sing from the bottom of your range to the top of your range without flipping, without raising your larynx, without shouting, and without laryngeal constriction.
There are some sounds that set you up nicely for finding your mix. Try this. Make a puppy dog whimpering sound, or a small child whining sound. This will stretch the vocal cords by tilting the thyroid cartilage forward. Move this sound up slowly into higher pitches. It may feel as though you are still in your chest voice because the cords are not necessarily thinning (although they may thin as well), but they are stretching. This is a necessary set up to get “in the mix”. If you have trouble doing this (because you feel your throat tighten up), then add the feeling of a moan or a groan. Think and say to yourself “oh, poor me” in a whiny higher pitched voice 🙁
Don’t do this loud. Don’t sing it…it’s simply a sound. This coordination will help tilt the cartilage which helps you achieve higher notes. This is the mix. This is stretching the vocal cords.
There is the risk of false cord constriction when making these whining sounds. That’s why you need to practise at a medium volume that matches the volume of your speaking voice. If you find yourself getting louder as you get higher, then stay in the range where the volume is maintained.
You need to visit these sounds everyday! The laryngeal muscles will learn new movements but you need to take it one baby step at a time. If you force the sounds then you are using different muscles, and that isn’t achieving a good mix!
The ability to make certain sounds can have great benefit on your overall vocal ability. The trick is being able to make these sounds correctly without constriction (pushing). It’s always a good idea to have a coach work with you on these sounds to make sure you are going about it the right way.
A great exercise is making the sound of a whimpery puppy dog. The trick is finding the correct pitch to start in your vocal range to engage the effort. Once you get connected to this coordination, you can take it up and down in pitch.
For women I would suggest starting about B flat (above middle C). This is just above your first passagio. Working through the passagio is a challenge in itself. It shouldn’t be loud. It is simply a sound…no singing. If the top note is breathy, try the thought of holding your breath while making the sound. If you feel pull on the high note (as if you are trying to talk higher but can’t reach it) then relax and let the note simply be soft and lighter. You may flip into falcetto at this point. If this is the case, then try it again at a quieter volume but with increase effort. Do not let it flip. What you are trying to do is engage the cricothyroid muscle to tilt the thyroid cartilage. Other sounds to try are meowing like a cat, or talking like a small child. Other muscles become involved as well when making different sounds, but they are all beneficial. You will likely find one that is easiest.
I wouldn’t lower the starting pitch too much. It’s most ideal to work in the middle area of the voice with the descending 5-note scale. Then take it higher as you gain success. You will notice the first note is the one that needs the most effort. If you are connecting on the first note with ease, then that’s when you can increase the volume. It should be brassy and bright. If breath is getting through then take the volume back down and keep working it. Remember, you do not need a lot of air to do this.
Men, this can be challenging for those of you with big voices. This exercise requires you to allow yourself to go to a smaller place first to make sure you are getting the edgy sound correctly with very little air. I suggest starting at about F# above middle C and using a five-note descending scale. It might feel vunerable. It might feel weak. You should feel no throat strain, but you will likely feel a tremendous effort in the body and back of the head as you attempt to hold back air and make a whimpery noise on a note above your first passagio. It might be breathy, but not so much to actually call your falcetto…just keep working at this. If you do flip to definite falcetto, then start at a lower pitch. The idea is to stay connect to your chest voice (speech-like sound), but allow it to switch to this unique coordination on your higher notes.
Give it a try and let me know how it went. Please leave a comment below. Thanks.