“The larynx as a platform of resistance”: I think I get that, rationally. But I can’t really comment until I learn how it works and feel it working. You said so yourself, it’s not a widespread concept – none of the other teachers I have contacted or studied with ever mentioned it.
Regarding “The larynx as resistance.” We have talked about the concept of closing the cords in our sessions together. The cords, and the larynx in general, is essentially a valve. We close the glottis and the valve behavior controls the emission of the air pressure. The unique quality of the vocal valve is that as the air pressure is released the edges of the valve opening (the vocal folds) are pliable and can be caused to vibrate from the air pressure. Most valves “hiss” when they release air pressure. (or water pressure for that matter) That is the basis of the hissing exercise that many people use. The body creates a steady pressure of air against the valve-like closure of the “s” consonant. Then you use that to feel the continuous, coordinated release of the pressure through the hissing without completely releasing the pressure by opening the “s”. This is a similar experience to the coordinated release of pressure through the glottal valve.
So the closure of the glottis, which creates this valve condition, acts as a resistance to the air pressure that the breathing system creates through the coordinated use of the breathing muscles. The challenge that complicates things is, when functioning correctly, we don’t really feel this resistance or the closure of the valve. It feels more like a compression of the breath at the larynx, but the larynx itself disappears. If we use too much muscular involvement from the larger muscles around the larynx, over-compensating, we can feel the resistance. But this tends to create discomfort and interference with the free and balanced vibration.
So how do we get this to work for us if we can’t feel it? Well, this is where our imagination comes to the rescue. We can use certain tools to discover where this resistance should exist in our sensory awareness. We can touch our larynx with our fingers on the outside of our neck. We can do a very light cough to locate the vocal cords in our sensations. But it must be stressed that we DO NOT DO THIS WHEN WE SING. I have to always emphasize that very clearly because we all invariably make that mistake when we are trying to figure this out. The light cough is only for locating the glottis in our sensations, it is not what we do to start the vibration. I also use the glottal fry to identify the location of the point of resistance. But again, we don’t want to actually do that when we sing.
Once we have identified the location of our glottis in our sensations we now need to figure out how to establish the closure of the glottis in the appropriate manner. The trick, as I pointed out before, is that when we do it correctly we no longer feel it. So we have to establish a clear mental sensation of the closure of the glottis by first feeling the closure of the larger muscles, which are adding extra pressure to the closure making it too much for healthy singing. Because of this we don’t want to do this too much and definitely not regularly. But it gives us something to go by. Then, through repeated experimentation, we try to recreate the closure without the larger muscles that we can feel. I always think of it feeling like a “force-field” stopping the breath from flowing out instead of the muscles stopping the breath. If we do use the muscles to stop the breath it will crush the vibration to some degree and cause discomfort. But for many people not using the muscles causes the breath to rush out. So that is the reason it is such a challenging coordination to establish. I like to relate the throat muscles to our hands (as I have said in previous posts), and so the act of singing correctly is like doing something without using your hands to do it. If we don’t do this something the breath will just rush out, and the throat muscles will have a strong temptation to get involved to stop the breath from getting away. So we need to stop the breath with the vocal folds, which we can’t really feel. But we can feel if the breath is flowing out or if it feels like it is being resisted. This is why so many people feel like it is just the breath that does everything. Because the resistance of the voice is not something we really feel, like we can feel the muscular interference.
So this all comes down to sensing rather than feeling. When done correctly, you can’t feel the closure of the cords but you can sense it by the nature of the air pressure. You also sense it by the purity of the vibration. There is no sense of leaking breath but also no feeling of holding the breath with the throat. We close the cords with our thought rather than with our muscles. This is also because the voice does a lot of its work unconsciously. So we need to allow it to do that and not get in the way.
Questions and comments are always welcome. Thanks.
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