In the blog “The flexible resonance box 1,” I promised to tell more about how you can have influence on your sound by changing the shape of the resonance box.
We can change the shape of the resonance box (throat and mouth) by changing the position of the different parts like: larynx, epiglottis, soft palate, tongue, jaw, lips….
Those changes are made by muscle action, and if we learn which muscles we need to control better we will obtain a much richer palette of colors.
To change the position of the lips, jaw and even the tongue can be quite easy because you can see in a mirror what you are doing and how it effects your sound. But changing the position of your soft palate, epiglottic, larynx and throat muscles is quite difficult.
Not only the shape of your resonance box is responsible for the colors you can make; also the way our vocal folds close has also a big influence on the creation of overtones and thus on our sound. (see the post “ what is this thing…”) But in the next posts we will concentrate on the shape of your flexible resonance-box.
In the last blogs I wrote about how important your emotions and mindset are; your muscles will respond immediately to them and (amongst other things) change the shape of your resonance box. Therefore I would like to emphasize again that singing with emotions and having the right mindset is of utmost importance. Emotion can really help you to have more control on what happens in the part of your resonance box you can nót see in the mirror.
Let’s get back to the larynx.
The larynx is kept on its place by muscles. There are really many muscles that can have influence on your larynx: muscles that run from your clavicle to your larynx, from your scull or jawbone to you larynx etc.
The air-tube can be made a little bit shorter or longer due to the fact that the air-tube is build up by horseshoe-like structures with in between elastic membrane. You could compare it with the tube of a vacuum cleaner. When the larynx is in a lower position the air-tube will be shorter and the throat will be longer and of course when the larynx is in a higher position the air-tube will be longer but the throat will be shorter. Muscles running up and down from your larynx will determine in which position your larynx is.
During the day we move our larynx many times up- and downwards: When you swallow, yawn, speak, sing…
When you gently examine the structures of your larynx with your fingers you will feel a part that is like a shield. If you put your thumb and index/ forefinger in the cove on top of it you can easily feel how the larynx moves.
Let’s find out how you can move your larynx:
Keep your fingers as mentioned above to feel the movements of your larynx.
- Take a sip of water and swallow it. Can you feel how your larynx moves upwards while swallowing and downwards afterwards ? If not, try again or change a little bit the position of your fingers ‘till you feel clearly how the larynx moves. If you really found the right position of your fingers we can continue.
- Try to yawn as deep as you can. Can you feel your larynx move downwards this time ?
- Say “hello everybody” with a voice of a child of about 5 years, then 10, 15, 20 and about 40 years old. Did you feel that to create the sound of a really young child your larynx had to be in a very high position? And that the larynx went more downwards the older the voice had to sound?
- Sing a really low note and directly afterwards a high note. Did you feel that on the low note your larynx was in a lower position compared with the high note? If you are a classical singer there will be less difference between the position of the larynx on a low or high note because in classical singing we keep the larynx always in a relative lower position.
- Which brings us to the next exercise: sing a phrase of a song ( f.i. happy birthday) with a popular sound and afterwards with a classical sound. As you already understand; when you sing it the classical way, your larynx will be in a lower position
- Now we will enter the realm of the more subjective experience and we will do some exercises in which you will feel only a slight change of larynx-position. Say the phrase: ‘Hello everybody’ with a strict voice and afterwards the same phrase with a smile in your voice. Note: keep the same melody in your voice, don’t talk higher or lower in the second line because it will already change the position of your larynx. Also keep the same volume. Can you feel the little movement downwards when you said it with a smile in your voice? Singing with an ‘inner smile’ (not with spread lips but with a sparkle in your eyes and a smile in your sound) is very well known by many singers. As you probably understand we started now to work with emotions to get more control over those muscles that move our larynx.
- Let’s have a look at what happens to the larynx-position when you say the same phrase with even more different emotions. Feel how the position of your larynx changes and listen carefully to the color of your voice. To feel what happens in your throat you’d better not be too shy but be a good actor, if you exaggerate the emotion a little bit, it will surely help. And again, use the same volume and melody. Say ‘Hello everybody’ as if you are almost crying, then say it as if you are really crying, or even sobbing, then with an inner-smile, then with a big laugh in your voice, then happy surprised and then with very, véry surprised color in your voice. Now say ‘Hello everybody’ as if you are very concentrated…like when you are studying and being very serious. And then say it with anger in your voice.
The effects that occurs, using emotions to move the larynx, will of course be a little different for everybody . But in general we can say that with crying, the larynx will go a little bit down and when we increase the emotion by crying more intense or even start to sob, the larynx will get in an even lower position. The same happens with laughing: the inner-smile can bring the larynx a little bit down and when you start to laugh more abundantly the larynx will go to an even lower position.
Maybe “Surprise” is not a real emotion but it is very helpful to get your larynx in a lower position: the more surprised your sound is, the lower the larynx will go. You can use “surprise” in both happy and sad songs; surprised happy he/she loves you and surprised sad he/she left you.
Why would we want to have a lower or higher larynx?
What is the effect on your sound when your larynx is in a higher or lower position? I guess you already found out: the lower the larynx, the more space you have in your sound box and the deeper and warmer the sound of your voice is.
When the larynx is in a very low position you will obtain a classical sound so if you don’t want that, train carefully with all the possibilities mentioned above.
If you need to sing very light fast notes it can sometimes help to sing it with the larynx in a higher position. Also the very high notes can be easier when you have a higher position of the larynx. Of course you have to be aware that it will also effect the color of your voice…
Again: the effect of using emotions can be a little bit different for every person so you have to try and experience yourself; it is a subjective approach.
Note; by lowering the larynx we also relax the muscles in our throat which results that the throat will be wider. The position of the larynx can effect also the position of the tongue: it is all connected by muscles and for every singer this can have different consequences. In the next posts we will have a closer look at this.