Vocal Cord movements for you to explore

This is a segment of the VocalDynamix lesson for the true vocal cords (also called vocal folds). One of the factors that makes vocal awareness work so interesting is that we humans are usually much less sensitive to those areas of our musculature that need to function automatically and constantly. The vocal cords are part of the mechanism for protecting the airway from foreign bodies, and consequently they are not very sensitive to pain; you may have noticed that, compared to the misery of a sore throat, losing your voice is pretty pain-free. Fortunately purposeful movement gives us an effective tool for increasing muscle awareness, and thus it is possible to learn to override these protective mechanisms, with practise.

Vocal Cord mini-A.T.M.

As with all A.T.M. lessons, find a comfortable position in which you feel supported. Lying on your back, or reclining in a comfortable chair that supports your head, will work for this lesson.
Gentle, attentive repetition is the key to creating new neural pathways, so repeat each movement for as long as it remains interesting to you, pausing between each movement and resting often.

Part One

I. With your mouth gently open, take a small inhalation, and hold your breath, lightly, for a few seconds, then exhale, and repeat. Be relaxed about it, don’t rush, breathing quickly and/or through the mouth, is one of the triggers for hyperventilation. While you are doing this, ask yourself:-

* What am I doing in order to hold my breath?
*What is happening in my throat, my ribs, my belly, my torso?

There are two basic ways to hold the breath in your throat after an inhalation; you can close the vocal cords to form a seal, or you can hold your ribcage and your torso still in such a way that the air does not escape. Can you tell which of these ways you are using? Maybe you are doing both at once? One way to sense the difference is to gently squeeze downwards and inwards with hands on your ribs. If your vocal cords are closed, the air will not escape and you may sense some pressure against the cords from below, or some downward pressure on your diaphragm; if they are open, this movement will squeeze some of your breath out.

II. Experiment until you can hold your breath these two different ways and can clearly distinguish between them.

Part Two

I. Now, continuing with the inhale/hold/exhale breathing pattern, take in a larger breath, make sure you are holding your breath with the vocal cords closed, and then release it in tiny amounts in a series of short bursts. Put your hands over your ears, and listen to the sound your vocal cords make at the instant of release. Once you have located this tiny “glottal pop” (the “glottis” is the open space between the two vocal cords), you should find that you can hear it easily, without covering your ears.

*Is your sound like a “pop”, or more like a tiny cough? The sound becomes more cough-like, the larger the amount of air that escapes through your cords.

II. Play around until you can make both sounds, the glottal pop and the cough-like sound, and then alternate between the two.

III. Find out how to make a long stream of little pops. You will find that so little air is escaping that you feel as if you are holding your breath, and when you stop you may release a little sigh of relief - the air left in your lungs is stale and needs to be replenished.

Part Three

I. Shape your mouth as if you are saying “er” (i.e. the sound we make when we are thinking what to say next). Notice that it involves almost no special shaping of your tongue and lips - which makes sense if you think about it.

II. Initiating the sound with your glottal pop, produce a long, steady, whispered “er”, making as little breath noise as possible. Practise maintaining your nearly silent “er” for as long as you can comfortably do so, and, using your hands as much as you wish, find out what happens to your breathing, and your torso, as you become more practised at controlling the flow of your out breath in this way.
This experiment enables the kind of breathing that singers learn to use in performance for maximum power and control.

Do let me know how you get on...