Line Hilton shares her tips for helping students struggling with laryngeal stability.
The larynx plays a vital role in singing and heavily influences the character and tonal quality of the voice. So it stands to reason that for a singer to achieve their desired vocal sound, it helps if they understand how the larynx works and its role in adding colour and intensity to a vocal performance.
To quote Chris Johnson and Steve Giles of the Naked Vocalist podcast: “The aim should be to have a larynx that can move when it needs and will respond to your commands.” (Read their article High, low or neutral – the larynx debate here.)
Addressing a common problem
One issue that sometimes arises is tracking pitch. This is when a singer’s larynx rises with each ascending pitch and lowers with each descending pitch.
“It’s a common problem – and not just among beginners,” says BAST founder and top vocal coach Line Hilton, who recently discussed laryngeal stability on the Singing Teachers Talk podcast.
“I think it’s quite instinctual for the larynx to track the pitch. You’ll find that as the singer gets higher in the melody, the larynx also wants to go up.”
The first step is to create awareness by asking the student to place their fingers on their neck and feel what happens when they swallow and yawn. (Hopefully, they’ll notice their larynx moving up and down).
Line adds: “When the student starts to experience their larynx going up and coming down, ask them to count out loud up to five. Ask them: ‘What’s the larynx doing now?’ We would expect a normal functioning larynx to sit neutrally and not move too much. It might move a little bit. But it’s not going to go up as high as it does when they’re singing.”
Two useful exercises
“Next, I would say: ‘Let’s direct the lower larynx as you sing up through the transition on the melody and keep that I’m-almost-about-to-do-a-yawn position in your larynx. The aim is that the student starts to feel what it’s like to go through that part of the melody with the larynx not tracking up.
“You could also get them to create some a dopey sound – for example, pretending to sound like Homer Simpson – to see whether that makes any difference.
“Quite often, one of those two exercises will be enough to help the student experience singing through that part of the melody without the larynx hiking up too high.”
Tune into our latest podcast episode, The Best Exercises for Laryngeal Stability, to hear Line discuss:
- Her views on the low, neutral, high larynx debate.
- How to help a student with a depressed larynx.
- Tongue tension.
- Muscle tension dysphonia.