Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your Instrument is your BODY - Go ahead - TOUCH IT!

Wednesday musings...

After reading and then responding to a singer thread on that forum I frequent!

What is with the prudishness of certain singers?

The body houses the voice. What is so cutting edge about then USING the body and knowing how it functions and moves and stretches and actually TOUCHING IT?!?!?!!?

The primary "taboo" I am speaking of in this post is the....LARYNX!!!!

Reading and speaking to some singers you would think this is a "touch and you'll turn to stone" body part!!

The larynx is simply a complex combo of cartilage and muscles and ligaments and membranes...

You don't need permission from some guru to touch it and explore it!

If it is cartilage and muscles and ligaments and membranes, it will respond in a similar way as other cartilage and muscles in your body!!!

If you feel tight in your shoulders - you stretch. If your hamstrings feel locked, you stretch. Sometimes you even go for a massage...

Why would the larynx be any different????

If you are listening to somebody who says "Don't touch!" you have lost your sanity!! It's YOUR body for crying out loud! It's your voice and wouldn't it be AMAZING if you actually learned about how it feels and moves and stretches not just by someone telling you or looking at a diagram in a book but just touching it and massaging it gently and swallowing to see what happens and breathing and feeling it stretch????

Vocal tensions/fatigue/hoarseness/exhaustion needs just as much attention as other muscles in your body that develop tension/fatigue and exhaustion!

The intrinsic nature of the laryngeal muscular is enough to suggest that! Add to that the connection to the tongue, and the surrounding muscles of the jaw, the neck, the face - and massage could be necessary!


Feel the shape, gently shift it between your hands so you see that it "gives" and is flexible! Keep your tongue heavy and your jaw loose as you massage. You may feel "clicks" which is just ligaments releasing! RELEASE IS GOOD!

Many singers have tongue tension - the tongue is anchored to the hyoid bone and the hyoid bone dangles the larynx from it. If the tensions begin one place they could travel to another - and finding ways or releasing through gentle massage and breath can reinforce the release!

The larynx needs to be released and open. If it is high and tight, issues arise. How will you know what is happening if you don't touch it?

If you are dealing with vocal fatigue/strain/hoarseness etc - laryngeal massage can be key to releasing muscular stress. And then FULL BODY MASSAGE can continue that release.

Ask your ENT, see a speech pathologist, ask your voice teacher! You will not learn until you ask and explore and find out.

Saying "don't touch" is simply the stupidest thing I have heard in awhile. No wonder singers get the reputation of being neurotic!

If you don't learn HOW your body functions, your voice will never be optimum. Part of learning HOW that body functions to house the voice and support it means exploration by's your choice.

There is nothing taboo about the larynx - it houses your cords and needs TLC too!

If as a singer you are going to create a taboo about your larynx then perhaps it's time to go do something else. Seriously.

These self-imposed taboos and neurosis are precisely what stops singers from finding truth.

I thought a quest for truth was more important.


  1. I saw a speech pathologist for almost 4 months for massage therapy for exactly this purpose... it didn`t seem to help me much, if at all.

  2. for precisely what reason? You can't do massage without working on the other issues as well...

    What was it supposed to do?

  3. Massage of ANY kind for ANY muscle does nothing long term if you are not developing new muscular behavior. The massage will only help short term and the muscles will go back to the same behavior if that's all you are doing - massage is simply a way of releasing so the muscles can be taught new behavior. If you are going for laryngeal massage and then screaming and pushing and not singing correctly then of course it won't help! The muscles will just go back to the repetitive and damaging behavior.

  4. any ideas about an ongoing (but sporadic) problem with the base of my tongue/the muscle under my chin cramping up when singing? The one voice teacher I had who specialized in vocal anatomy just said "well yeah its a muscle it can cramp" but gave me no ideas as to what it might be caused by (other than the obvious - its got to do with tension - even I can figure that out) or what to do about it...

  5. hi Ally - thanks for your question! Obviously seeing you and watching you breathe would help me diagnose that issue more thoroughly...

    This could be an issue with laryngeal anchoring and the tongue tries to manipulate the intensity too much - thus the cramping...

    Have you worked with breath and muscular behavior for specific laryngeal anchoring? Also, working for more strength in the neck "pillar" muscles to balance the strap muscles at the C3-c-C5 vertebrae may help to suspend more space.
    Are you collapsing in the sterum and high intercostals (under your pits to the bottom of your braline?) as this will cause strain on the tongue and constriction in the upper cartilage of the larynx.

    These need to be strengthened and lengthened in order to suspend AROUND the larynx.

    Again - I can't be more specific without SEEING you. But I hope you continue to seek out the answers you need!

  6. Thanks for the suggestions... Your post alone has given me a lot to think about and to bring up with my teacher at lesson next week, not to mention your suggestions to consider in your response to my question. I really appreciate your blog - always bringing something to my attention I hadn't really ever paid attention to before!

  7. Glad I could help Ally!

    Singing and learning to sing is about discovery and gaining knowledge - not waving a magic wand nor waiting for "the secret" to be imparted by the grand guru somewhere...

  8. The only thing that scared me in that thread was that someone quoted from the new book by a voice teacher who in my opinion is a complete fraud. Other than that, no worries. I don't touch my larynx much though. And don't really think I need to.

  9. HT - but if you needed to touch it or wanted to - you wouldn't let someone tell you you COULDN'T!

  10. The massage therapy (as well as breathing exercises and meditation) was supposed to help me with muscle tension, but I was not advised to see a voice teacher as well. After a while, I did, but it`s kind of a cycle; my vocal issues seem to make me resistant to technique no matter how my teacher approaches trying to break me of my bad habits.

  11. good luck Stephanie - perhaps it's less about breaking bad habits - which is negative focus - and more about creating new and positive and balanced behavior...