I’ve read that it is advantageous to have a low larynx and noticed that when I reach for a high note, I often tighten my throat and my larynx also moves up. I sound more consistent when I can get my larynx to stay in one place. Therefore, I want to understand if I can have more conscious control over this process.
If you lower your larynx too much, you will find that you start sounding quite “classical”, which may not be your desired effect.
Play around with singing the same pitch with both a low and a high larynx.
You will find that it sounds almost as if you are singing a different pitch, even though you are not.
A very high larynx will make you sound “Disney”; a low larynx will make you sound more mature and, if you take it to an extreme, give you a lot of vibrato.
I think it will help you if we look a little more deeply at the theory—and then I will share a practical suggestion at the end.
The primary function of the larynx is to close when we swallow, stopping food from going down our windpipe.
When you swallow, your larynx rises—if you hold on to it gently, you will feel it.
The parts of the larynx which “close” are the false folds; these are a pair of thick folds of mucous membrane that offer protection and sit slightly superior to the more delicate true folds (red and “fleshy”).
The true folds vibrate to produce sound when you sing.
Now, when you sing high pitches, as you have correctly observed, your larynx rises.
As the larynx is programmed to start closing in order to prevent you from choking on a swallow; the larynx does not know the difference between an impending swallow and a high note!
Although this is most irritating, the good news is that the second most powerful maneuver for the larynx, after the swallow, is laughter.
Unless you have a tight, constricted laugh, laughing retracts the false folds.
If you imagine very hard silent laughter, you will find that there is a feeling of “space” in your throat—practicing this “retraction” is important, especially on high notes.
One way of practicing it is to hold your ears closed, and to breathe in and out of your mouth; if you are relaxed, you will hear your breath moving in and out.
Now imagine hard silent laughter, and you will find that your breathing becomes silent.
This means that your false folds are quite retracted— a good place from which to sing.
Retraction takes a little practice, and if you are normally quite constricted, it can be require much effort and ache slightly.
Although your larynx has to rise on a high pitch, it is absolutely possible to keep it in a slightly more neutral position as you go higher in your range.
The lower your larynx is, the longer the tube or space between the larynx and your soft palate is.
Essentially you are turning yourself from a piccolo into a flute; the sound will be warmer and rounder.
Good luck with experimenting!
Director, Advanced Performers Studio
Questions for Leontine Hass can be sent to the VoiceCouncil editor: email@example.com