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.
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.
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
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...