Had A Conversation With Your Larynx Lately?
Maybe it’s time you did. Why? Because many of us forget that there are a number of physical and acoustical processes that make singing possible. One the the key players is the larynx, and the closer you two become the better, and more consistent your singing will be.
Why, just the other day I listened in to a singer-larynx conversation that went like this:
Singer: I just want to sing.
Singer: I just want to survive your singing, and sometimes you make that tough.
Singer: Sorry about that. I get so stressed and distracted I don’t even know what I’m doing until it’s all over, and by then I’ve abused you. You actually hurt and get rough sounding.
Larynx: You got that right. But, if you’ll stop physically stressing me, I’ll stop emotionally stressing you.
Singer: Sounds like a plan. Where do we start?
Larynx: Well, since we’re kind of stuck with each other for the rest of our lives, with no replacement parts available, maybe we should get to know each other. You know, abilities, expectations etc.
Singer: I’m game. Why don’t you start.
Larynx: Well, to start with, I was designed by the greatest inventor of all time. He created the entire universe and everything and everyone in it. He also figured out the mechanics and acoustics of making sound. He’s really good! Here are some things you should know:
The vocal folds (sometimes called vocal cords) are designed to protect the lungs from foreign objects. When something heads that way, like food or liquid, the vocal folds close to protect the lungs. They can also become a one-way valve allowing you to cough the threat away. Rather clever if you ask me.
The cool thing, of course, is that these same vocal folds can vibrate as air from the lungs passes between them. And, depending on the length and thickness of their leading edge, they can produce hundreds of different pitches.
Singer: Very cool, but why can some people sing the big high notes so easily and others look and sound like they’re screaming? And it doesn’t seem to matter if they’re male or female.
Larynx: You’re right about range not being gender-specific. Most men, of course have lower voices than most women, but there are thousands of exceptions to that. If a woman has thicker and longer vocal folds she may be a natural tenor. If a man has shorter, thinner folds he may be an outstanding high tenor or even alto. The Creator gave everyone a potentially wide range, but not all the same range. Kind of like the string family in the orchestra: Violin, viola, cello and double bass. All have wide ranges, but all have different ranges.
The important thing is to discover how we were made and maximize that range. Then, to choose song arrangements that fit into our range. And, remember: No matter what our range you need to develop the skills and habits that will make us the most consistent and flexible singer we can be.
Singer: But, what if I don’t like our range? What if I’m really a bass and would prefer to be a tenor?
Larynx: You’ll have to talk to the Creator about that one. I once overheard a cello asking the Creator if he could play a violin concerto. The Creator didn’t even bother to respond.
Note to self: Stay in touch with the larynx. It’s good for both of us as well as our listeners.