Thank you for your response! I appreciate you taking the time and effort to help me. Being a string player since a young age, I can associate with the eloquent image you presented of “switching strings” at appropriate places.
“So make sure your larynx is freely pronouncing the vowel/pitch at all times. Never rely on just the breath to do the work. The breath works with the larynx. Together they create the tone. If the larynx is not active the registers will be unlikely to adjust. That is why the perfect attack – or coup de glotte – is so important. Without it the larynx stays passive and doesn’t make its adjustments.”
Could you clarify what you mean by using the larynx to work? Is it only focusing on initiating the coup de glotte, or are there other conscious adjustments one must make in order to assure that there is no “inappropriate relaxation”?
When I say “use the larynx” it is often confusing to people. But if you really slow down and think about what you are actually doing when you make a sound with your voice you will realize that although the larynx is making the sound, your intent is not directed from the larynx. This might take a little experimenting to get.
When you sing a note try to notice where your mental attention is. Most people tend to unconsciously have their attention in their mouth. Others, because they have taken voice lessons, have transferred their attention to their breath. As an analogy for you, as a string player, this would be like thinking of the inside of the body of the instrument or only the bow while playing. You can see that these focal points would be less effective than the recommended focus of the contact of the bow and the string. The bow is only a tool to elicit vibration from the string. It has very little value on its own. The value of the bow comes when it relates skillfully with the string to produce vibration.
If one were to focus only on the bow with no attention on how it was interacting with the string the quality of the vibration would be unreliable. This is the same situation many “trained” singers demonstrate when they only allow themselves to consider the breath and ignore the larynx. They do this out of fear of creating tension in the larynx. Which is something we definitely want to avoid. But we are not likely to do so by ignoring half of the situation. In fact this is the basis of many of the problems that singers develop.
We must recognize that the value of the breath, like the bow, is determined by how it is coordinated to interact with the vocal folds inside the larynx. The only purpose the breath has, in the context of the voice, is to feed the vibration of the vocal folds. Any conscious attempt to do anything else will diminish the quality of the vibration.
The way we accomplish this is by thinking of pronouncing from the larynx itself. This mental attention stimulates the larynx complex to adjust to make sound. Then it feels like the larynx is in the lead and the breath follows. When this relationship is balanced we don’t really experience the breath as breath. It is more like a sense of staying inflated that gives support to the voice. It is definitely not a sensation of “flow” of the breath that so many wrongly recommend.
The key to avoiding negative results is to make sure that everything is staying stretched structurally. This includes the torso, rib-cage, jaw/inside of mouth and face. The general direction is up. This condition of the body is conducive to spontaneous action and will reduce the risk of imbalance. The condition of stretching up feels like it lifts the weight of the skull, tongue, jaw up off of the voice so it can function freely.
This is where the “coup de glotte” comes into existence. It is not really something separate that we do. It is the name given to the action of the glottis/vocal folds that happens when we pronounce a vowel spontaneously and freely with no interference from escaping breath or muscular rigidity. Just like the bow having a 1:1 relationship with the vibration, no slipping and no excess pressure/digging in on the string.
If we read carefully Garcia’s description we should notice that he said we should articulate the sound without stiffening the larynx. It is this stiffening of the larynx that gets us in trouble. (I know this from experience. It is a very common trap that people fall into when trying to figure this out on their own. A good reason to have a guide who knows what they are doing.) If we don’t stiffen we will just say the vowel freely without interference. (But this takes a deeper level of sensitivity than most currently posses. That is why it requires time to increase sensitivity.) To do this act incorrectly we have to stiffen. This creates excess pressure at the glottis which then explodes on the articulation. This is definitely not what we want and not what was meant by Garcia. But that is what the term has now come to represent. This is unfortunate because by attempting to avoid it the majority of singers are throwing their voice out of balance.
As I said, it is not something separate that we do. It is a physical response to our thought to pronounce at/with the larynx. By thinking at the larynx we continue to stimulate the nervous system to keep the larynx active. This elastic activity provides the proper resistance to the breath pressure to result in a balanced vibration, which can then be amplified into an optimal tone. Then we feel like we are just “thinking out loud”, as Lamperti stated. And the activity of the larynx ensures the necessary adjustments as we sing through the range.
So we must remember the relationship between the body, mind and emotions. The condition of the body is influenced by the emotions. The coordination of the body is influenced by its condition and the thoughts of the mind. And the result of our tone is determined by how well the body responds to these influences.