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Relaxing - Larynx Tension

singer with view of larynx

First of all, what is the larynx? The larynx is the bone structure in your neck that many people call the "Adam's apple." It contains the vocal folds, which vibrate to create your sound. In order to avoid going into an entire anatomy lesson I'm going to leave it there and focus on the tension around the larynx, which I will just call larynx tension. The tension is bad because it squeezes on the vocal tract and causes a lack of control. Additionally, it makes high and low notes less possible to hit. Anyway, here's how to identify and eliminate larynx tension.

How to Identify Larynx Tension - The ideal way is to simply grab your whole larynx and move it gently left and right. When I say "grab your whole larynx," it would be the entire bone and not just the Adam's apple. The whole bone makes up the front almost half of your neck. When you move it, you can identify tension by feeling and/or hearing any grinding, popping, or clicking. A lack of tension would be a lack of grinding, popping, or clicking, almost as if pushing your larynx through water.

Since many of my students have been... uncomfortable with the idea of moving their neck left and right we can discuss one additional way. Its less effective, but if you breathe in slowly with your mouth you may be able to feel a widening in your throat. If you notice this feeling strongly, it could be a sign of larynx tension. Unfortunately this is not extremely reliable and could also result in a feeling of lowering that can be misconstrued.

How to Eliminate Larynx Tension - Eliminating larynx tension can be done similar to the unreliable method above. Breathe in slowly through an "oo" shaped mouth. Test your larynx again while inhaling and often you'll feel it move freer. Eliminating the tension completely will take time, but this is a good first step.

Another method requires a water bottle. Take a very small sip of water and swallow. When you swallow, these muscles will squeeze shut and then completely relax. Take a moment after swallowing and then try testing your larynx for tension or singing. It should be looser. NOTE: Do not inhale after swallowing as larynx tension is often caused by poorly executed inhalation. Read here to ensure you are breathing correctly. This usually takes many attempts and will need to be redone every inhale, thus the entire water bottle.

Finally, you can use the method of "suspension." This is essentially trying to keep your throat open. Notice while inhaling that your throat has the aforementioned widening. When you stop inhaling, see if you can keep your throat open. It should feel like someone could chuck a penny at you and it would go directly into your lung without anything hindering it. It may even feel like the inhaling doesn't fully stop or like the air is moving around in your neck. Practicing this feeling often helps the larynx become used to relaxing.

As with all topics in the relaxation category. Larynx tension release is a long term goal. It will not happen overnight and even when you get it, it will come back to haunt you. If you need additional help, sign up for singing lessons here or leave a comment and I'll do my best to help!

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