More on vocal folds, laryngeal tilt, twang and pop singing

I want to thank Jenny for getting me back to posting on my blog. I’ve been so “crazy” busy with teaching and performing…..I forgot how much I love answering your questions.

Jenny was asking for clarification about the thickness of vocal folds in the great pop singers….below is my response.

Hi Jenny

The true definition of “belting” does not include mixing. It is a chest register coordination with thick folds.

The definition of “mixing” is allowing the voice to ascend in pitch through the passaggio (for women around G above middle C). The vocal folds thin out as the voice ascends in pitch. To do this without being breathy, the larynx will tilt as the voice goes higher.

You mention the great pop belters, so I assume you are referring to the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Christina Aguilera. You say it is obvious that they are singing with thick fold. Please note, it may sound like they are always singing with thick folds, but, they are mixing with varying degrees of vocal fold thickness. Their larynx is tilted and their cords have stretched (thinned or stiffened) as they ascend in pitch. (Exception: Christina Aguilera sometimes sings in full chest voice with thick folds, and is able to sing in a beautiful mix as well. She is very aware of what she is doing…it’s a stylistic choice).

The reason these singers sound like they are only singing with thick folds is because they have good vocal cord closure and breath control and support…two EXTREMELY important components to singing in a good mix.

You mention the wide vowel and forward placement. This is absolutely correct and the #1 coordination defining a “pop or rock” sound. The tongue is free in the back of the mouth allowing for “twang” and a speech-level sound. This is why they simply sound like they are talking on pitch…..because they are!

I always remind my students of the illusion of “powerful” singing. If any one of these singers were to sing their #1 hit song in your living room without a microphone, you would say….is that it? Is that all there is? Yes, that’s all it is!

Thank you so much for your question and the opportunity to respond. Good luck! Susie

Carrie Manolakas sings Creep (Radiohead cover)

I’m sure many of you have seen this heart-wretching rendition of Carrie Manolakas’ cover of Creep. She possesses such a compelling hold and control of this song. Have a listen.

Jen DeRosa from Tom Burke’s Voice Studio talks about how Carrie is managing these sounds.  (A Quick Fix for Chicks that Mix)  Check that out here     (And, if you are not subscribing to Tom Burke`s Studio yet for singing tips, then you better get there fast!)

I want to add a couple of things to Jen`s comments, that may seem obvious, but definitely crucial for anyone who is trying to make contemporary sounds in this range (belting).

1. Note Carrie`s body and breath control. Watch her stomach. Notice how effortless it appears she is working. This is NOT the case at all. Carrie is able to hold back huge amounts of air to create the pressure needed to make these sounds safely.

2. Note the `cry`in her voice that is very apparent starting around 2:26. This is good vocal cord closure. See how the top of her mouth is up (ensuring a raised soft palate), and her front top teeth are showing. Again, this is helping with the entire coordination of good cord closure and placement of tone and resonance.

3.  Note her chin starts to rise at the chorus. This is very effective for her belt sound, once she has good cord closure and optimum breath control. This only works when the throat is relaxed, open and you are `MIXING`. Note how the belt increases by the activation of the cricoid cartilage, and supreme oral resonance. (In other words, happy shouting!) (Note again, the soft palate is high, and the tongue is also slightly high in proportion to this coordination….and the throat is open and free). This is giving the illusion of pure chest voice.

4.  What is going on in the larynx? Lots of things.

The thyroid cartilage is tilted and the aryepiglottic sphincter is narrowed. This is creating oral twang which is a essential component for safe belting.

We know the the thyroid is tilted because her “cry” is very apparent (in her mix). Try meowing or doing a puppy dog whimper in your high mix. (Ladies, high C area and men G above middle C). We also know her aryepiglottic sphincter (AES) is narrowed because of her supreme oral twang. This makes her voice louder. This allows her to lift her chin. (Try quacking like a duck, or saying “nay, nay, nay” like a schoolyard bully with a nasty little bite to your voice).

If Carrie’s thyroid cartilage was not well tilted and the AES was not narrowed, Carrie would not be able to left her chin to better activate her oral twang and resonance. This laryngeal coordination is key to belting in any style of music.

Questions? Comments? Please leave them here.