Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
The false vocal folds (FVF) are located above the true vocal folds and are a point of interest in the Estill Voice Model. In “The Estil Voice Model: Theory & Translation” the authors describe the FVF as “pads of muscular and fatty tissue that run parallel to and above the true vocal folds…. Normally, the false vocal folds are not actively squeezing shut during speech. Closure plays a vital, life-sustaining role in the protective functions of the larynx. Both true vocal folds and false vocal folds close tightly during swallowing, throat clearing, and coughing. In addition, they close in the laryngeal reflex triggered in any freeze-fight-flight situation. Their tight closure is also recruited in strenuous activities that need breath-holding to generate the high pressures required for heavy lifting, voiding of bowels, and delivery of babies.” (p. 63). The authors break down the positioning of the false folds into three options.
“The three options for the False Vocal Fold control in Estill Voice Training are Constrict, Mid, and Retract. These three options lie in a continuum along which the distance between the false vocal folds can be varied. Performers, voice coaches, and clinicians use many different terms to describe the sounds or feelings associated with each option.” (p. 61)
Gillyanne Kayes also addresses this in “Singing and the Actor.” She shares the following awareness exercises:
While I do not use this full series on a regular basis, I do find it helpful when a student has no idea what I mean by constriction and/or if the problem is not improving through registration re-balancing and/or articulation exercises. I have the student place their thumb and first finger around the space between the thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone. I first have them alternate between a grunt and laugh several times and ask them to describe the difference. I then have them find a silent breath with their fingers still in place. Then I have them find their grunt, their laugh, followed by a silent breath, and then perform a 1-2-1 or 1-3-1 glide on /a/. I then use those three primary modes to coach them away from tension and towards freedom. I say things like “that’s starting to sound like a grunt” or “imagine you are laughing, it is a positive /a/” or “breathe silently and keep it that simple when you sing /a/.” This process will often produce great results as they begin to identify excess effort in their throat and re-learn how to initiate tone without constriction. I then have them laugh a phrase on pitch. When they are successful with that step, I have them laugh then sing a phrase on /a/. If they constrict, we stop, laugh, and then try again. When they can sing extended phrases with freedom on /a/, we go to the words. In this step, we stop monitoring since the end goal is not rigid positioning but rather flexible freedom in the throat.
Do you use the silent laugh or other similar Estill exercises in lessons? Do you have other exercises for achieving the same goal? If so, please share below. If you are not yet following the blog, please submit your name and email address in the comment form (no comment necessary) and you will be added to the mailing list, ensuring you receive each new post in your email. If you enjoyed this post, please share it on social media to spread the word about Evidence-Based Voice Pedagogy.
Want to learn more about Evidence-Based Voice Pedagogy? Consider joining us at the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute this summer in beautiful Winchester, VA. Our faculty includes experts from a wide range of backgrounds who respect the work that has gone into all methods of vocal training and love helping other teachers learn how to apply science to tradition while also teaching new approaches. Best of all, it is a fun, positive, and supportive atmosphere where teachers are encouraged to find their own pedagogical voice to help keep the world singing.
Thanks for reading and have a great week of teaching!
Matt Edwards is an Associate Professor of Voice/Director of Musical Theatre at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA, and Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute. He is the author of “So You Want to Sing Rock ‘N Roll” and dozens of articles and book chapters on functional voice training for non-classical styles. For more information visit EdwardsVoice.com