Find Your Voice Session Three – Laryx/Chest voice

By now, if you’ve been doing the initial exercises regularly, you are getting used to the feeling of moving the vibration around and beginning to release air more freely. You are also hopefully also expanding your idea of sound and singing and freeing up your own sense of melody by doing some of the improvisation. This week, we’re building on the core exercises and breathing to include the larynx in your understanding of sound production. Have another read of the hand out and info below. This week you want to be doing ngs, lip rolls, slides, nay nay nay (or change the nay nay to No No if that has become easy), mum mum mum, eee eee Hey Hey and:
  1. Vocal fry into low notes
  2. Vocal fry into low scale – (nb – vocal fry is not a good exercise if you’ve got any tendency towards over squeezing your cords. It should feel like an easy, free vibration, not a squeeze)
  3. Yeah yeah yeah
If there is another exercise that you’ve been given specific to you (maybe goo goo or gug gug or a slide with chin hold) then do keep doing that.
The larynx is housed behind the thyroid cartilage (Adam’s apple). The vocal cords attach at the front and back of the larynx, like two rubber bands. You now know that the thinning of the vocal cords is what allows us to have range. In order for the cords to thin out, the larynx needs to be able to tilt. The ease with which you can tilt your larynx is related to how you use your voice in speech. If, like me, you tend to speak with a straight larynx, it can take a bit of extra concentration and exploration/training to get used to tilting it. If you speak with a flutier quality, it’s possible you tilt your larynx very naturally in speech anyway, and sliding up and down will be fairly easy for you. Even if it isn’t easy to start with, it becomes natural.
As well as being able to tilt your larynx to move freely up and down your range, you also want to release your larynx as much as possible, so that the full length of your ‘natural megaphone’ can be used. If you are singing with your larynx high, even accurately pitched notes won’t sound as full and resonant as they could. If you make a ‘doh’ or ‘mum’ sound, you can feel the laryx bob down, so you can use that to check, or as a sound to ‘reset’ your larynx. 
The other focus for this session is some material to train your lower register. In chest voice, the full weight of the vocal cords is used. As pitch goes higher, the cords thin and the sound resonates in the head cavities instead of in the chest, producing a lighter sound.
Pitch is controlled by the two muscle groups that the vocal cords attach to, the arytenoid and thyroid muscles. The arytenoid muscles are located at the back of the larynx and control the higher register. The thyroid muscles are a little heavier and attach at the front of the larynx, controlling the lower register. If one of these groups of muscles is weak, it’ll be hard to stay on pitch. When you’re singing in the lower register, the lower you go, the more the thyroid muscle group stretches and tilts slightly downwards. To stay on pitch, the back of the throat – arytenoid muscles – must be strong enough to provide bracing tension. When you go higher, the arytenoid muscles stretch and pull back, and they need to have something to brace against as they stretch.
For both muscle groups to be strong enough to hold and act as bracing tension for each other, it helps to isolate and develop them separately. As you sing up and down, you will notice a ‘break’ between your chest and head voice. Generally, people don’t like how this sounds and if they could wave a magic wand to make it vanish, they would.
This ‘flip’ sound happens when the cords can’t stay connected-and that’s often because there’s a point where the two muscle groups need to hold the tension evenly. If they are not strong enough, or if they haven’t learned to co-ordinate the change in register (which can happen if you’re very used to singing in one register but not another) the cords will collapse and you will hear a crack as you change registers. This is completely normal and will correct itself when the muscle groups become strong enough to hold the tension.
Your voice can also break when you are nervous or tense, as anxiety can cause these muscle groups to tense to the point of spasm, which again means the cords can’t stay together. Too much breath pressure can do the same thing-which is why using a lot of air to go for a high note can be counter productive.
Each pitch has its own size opening through which the air must pass as you sing. The lower you go, the bigger the opening, the higher you go, the smaller the opening and the thinner the chords. If there’s too much air pressure under those tiny cords, the cords will have to separate to accommodate it, and that might make the opening too wide for the pitch – which might cause the note to go flat.
The vocal fry and chest voice material works on developing strength and power in the lower end of your register. This also helps your voice overall.

Backing Tracks For Session Three (do your foundational Ng slides, lip rolls, aah -ooh and Mum mums etc first)


Foundational warm ups

Here you can stream the backings for the slides with Ng, lip roll, Aaah-oooh-aah, and the slide where you hold your jaw down; as well as Nay Nay Nay. Only go as far as is comfortable.

NG Slide

Lip roll slide

Aaah oooh aaah slide

Slide backing only for any exercise (including chin hold)

Nay Nay Nay

Low notes into vocal fry

Chest voice scale with vocal fry

Yeah Yeah Yeah

Session 2Session 1

How to work on a song

This is a method for approaching songs you’d love to sing and actually get them to a point where you know them inside out, have put your own spin on them and can confidently sing them.

  1. Ordinary listening – listen through and get an overview of the song.
  2. Detailed listening to get the structure of the song. Count your way through it to identify when the vocals come in for the first section, whether there are gaps, how long the gaps last, when the other sections of the songs come in and out. Get really confident on this and on the lyrics.
  3. Detailed listening – listen through to see if you can notice some key features. You may need to listen several times to see if and when:m-the singer changes register-the singer varies the intensity or goes louder or softer-the singer changes the quality of their tone from connected to breathy or vice versa-the singer uses ornaments.
  4. Work out if there are any challenges. Does the song have a big leap between notes or go high or low? Sometimes it’s necessary to change the key of a song, but often we can overcome these challenges by working out how best to practice a small section of a song. If necessary, ask for support or get a second opinion on how to approach these challenges, although as time goes on you’ll get better at working out how to do this yourself.
  5. Work on these more challenging sections individually during your practice time. After a few days, ask yourself if they are becoming easier.
  6. Go through the lyrics and decide where you want to increase the intensity of your performance. Try each line out in a few different styles, using a looping software, so you craft each part of your performance.

What NOT to do:

  • Beware of straining during your practice. If something is causing you to strain, pause, and work out why that is and decide how to reduce the strain. Maybe you’re straining from a chest voice coordination when you need to transition to head voice. Maybe you’re backing off a note each time you sing it because you’re not quite certain what the note is.
  • Don’t just sing the song from beginning to end along to the original track, or don’t JUST/ONLY sing it this way. What happens when you do this is that you simply rehearse any mistakes or areas of weakness without ever fixing them., and you can do this fifty times over and still find once you remove the original singer you’re not entirely sure where to come in and what the structure of the song is. It’s not the best way to improve. It’s not that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself singing along to your favourite repertoire, it’s that you shouldn’t only (or mainly) do this.