Larynx control may sound a bit dull, but in fact it's just the opposite. It's a super skill for singers because it unlocks a world of vocal colours. And if that weren't enough, it also gives you the ability to pitch more easily and access your full range. Pretty cool, eh?!
What is the larynx and what does it do?
The larynx, also known as the voice box, is a structure in the middle of your throat. It is made up of cartilages, muscles and connective tissues.
The larynx contains the vocal folds and is responsible for making sound and protecting the windpipe when we swallow. Plus it acts as a valve that regulates airflow in and out of the body as we breathe.
You can feel your larynx by gently resting your hand on your throat. Now hum and feel the vibrations from your true vocal folds. If you leave your hand on your larynx and swallow, you will feel it go up and then back down.
When the larynx moves it changes the length of the vocal tract (also called 'the filter' in Estill Voice Training). In other words, the distance between the true vocal folds and the tip of your lips gets longer or shorter, which in turn has a big impact on the brightness or darkness of your sound.
How larynx control can help your singing
Here are three ways that a freely moving larynx can help you when you are singing.
Larynx control lets you play with the bass/treble balance of your sound. This is super cool because it means you can change your sound according to genre.
For example, in pop or bluegrass you might want a higher larynx position for a brighter sound whereas in classical and crooning, you might want a lower larynx position for a darker tone. With larynx control, you decide.
Larynx control will help you pitch more easily and accurately. When you get the right balance between the pitch you produce and the length of your vocal tract, you will find that it's easier to sing - especially when it comes to hitting the high notes.
3. Vocal health
With larynx control, you will never get stuck in one position. When your larynx is free to move you will use less effort all around. Using less effort to produce voice means that there's a lower risk of tension, strain and damage to your vocal folds.
Tip: Do a cool down after singing to return to a restful neutral larynx position. Just a few pitch glides down your range will bring the larynx back to Earth after hitting the high notes. It means you're fresh to sing again the next day.
Larynx control will benefit you
When I first started training my voice I was told that in order to reach a higher pitch my larynx needed to move down. In time I learned that this was not an efficient way to reach the top of my range, so I had to spend a lot of time unlearning this training, which was based on a misconception.
Don't let this happen to you. Apply scientific, evidence-based information to your vocal training and you will get faster results that actually work.
Learning to consciously and independently control* the height of your larynx puts you in the driver's seat of your own artistry. It will take time to achieve this, but with focused training you can do it.
The reward is that your larynx will readily respond to your musical imagination. You will be able to tell the story of a song with new and exciting choices. You will also enjoy becoming a more confident performer as your whole range feels easy to reach.
So start exploring! Get to know your larynx and, most importantly, let it be free to move.
Stefan Holmström is a professional opera singer and voice teacher working with speakers and singers of all ages and abilities with a wide range of goals. He offers online and in-person vocal coaching and workshops from his studio in central Brighton in the UK. As an Estill Master Trainer (EMT), Stefan uses Estill Voice Training (EVT) as a baseline for safe and sustainable voice use.
*Conscious and independent control is a trademark of Estill Voice Training.