Hold It

The vocal folds must resist the airflow. To do this, they must close firmly and vibrate easily while closed. They cannot be so pressed together that they become irritated, but they must learn to “firm up” enough to prevent a loud sound from being breathy or sharp.

When the larynx can “hold” its position, the sound feels firm or “grounded”. The tone is neither breathy nor strident and the larynx can adjust slightly as needed in order for the sound to be free to adjust as well. When this is possible, and it takes time for it to be strong in most people, the airflow will also balance, so that there is a feeling of correspondence between the sound and the body that most singing teachers call “support” or “being connected”.

Laryngeal strength is a crucial ingredient in classical singing or in belting, loud rock or other styles, but it can be very tricky to isolate interior muscles such that they do their work without dragging all sorts of other muscles along for the ride. The key to this behavior is isolation of the various muscles involved in controlling phonatory response, but not generating phonation itself. There is a difference.

Huh?

What does this mean in English?

It means that it is possible to get a good solid sound without tightening the base of the tongue, the neck muscles, the jaw muscles or the swallowing muscles. It is possible to do that when the posture is good, the ribs and abs are strong and available and the soft palate has been coaxed into responding.

How do you get to this kind of response?

Through exercises. That’s all we have. Pitches, vowels, volume and later consonants. The sound tells you everything you need to know and the exercises get you to the sound, sooner or later.

The idea is that the exercises produce a result and, if they are done properly, over time the responses  will get better, perception will get better, and in the end, the sound will also get better. Just because you understand an exercise doesn’t mean that it automatically does its job. It’s not like instant coffee….you add hot water, milk or sugar, and away you go. It’s more like watching your tomato plants grow. You plant the seed, water it, and maybe give it some fertilizer every now and then. After that, you wait.

These principles have been written about by both Cornelius Reid and William Vennard. Reid called the position one is which the larynx “holds” against the breath. Vennard calls it a “dynamic” larynx. Others have described it, too. If you are a CCM singer, you may or may not ever find this particular adjustment, as it isn’t a requisite for all CCM styles, so don’t worry if you don’t have this experience. You may not need it. A great deal depends on the overall condition of your voice, the music you perform and the training you have had. If you are a classical singer, however, and this means little to you, I suggest you give it further thought.

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