The silent laugh technique

 

I had the book [Singing and the Actor] already and I’ve watched the DVD that I just got regarding the Constriction & Release. I have just a few questions regarding the video.

Question 1. In the silent laughing smile is it normal that my cheekbone raise a bit like in smiling? (Are the muscles in the face the same as a real laugh/approximatively)

Question 2. I took singing lesson from a school and they taught me when singing, the mouth has to be narrow vertically, especially in the high notes but with the silent laugh it seems that the space in my mouth is wider horizontally. So am I doing it alright?”

The silent laugh technique uses real laughing muscles and movements to get you to feel and activate the false vocal fold deconstriction (moving the false vocal folds away from the mid-line and opening your throat). If you get a smile in the lips and cheekbones while you find that movement that’s ok, but you can relax and release the cheekbone muscles once you have got the deconstriction – the two areas don’t need to be connected.

Once you’ve got used to the feeling of opening your throat for singing (the false vocal folds are inside your larynx), you can release any tension in the lips or cheeks as it is not necessary – your lips and cheeks need to be moveable to create words and resonance while maintaining the opened false vocal folds.
The second question is a little trickier to answer. The mouth does not have to be in any particular shape to sing. After all you are singing words, and even that depends on what dialect you are singing in – a version of Italian English for classical singing, “Motown” vowels, Country and Western vowels, Standard American vowels – they’re all different.

Many voice training programs use mouth shape to change resonance on different pitches because they are looking for a particular thing (matched sound, warmth, brightness or darkness etc). But the silent laugh technique can work with any mouth shape or resonance space, as the widening of the false vocal folds happens directly above the true vocal folds, and before the soundwaves hit the tongue and mouth space.

Having said that, my own experience of the silent laugh is that there is a feel of a slight widening right at the back of the throat/mouth cavity, almost as if the very back of the tongue got slightly wider. So I do feel a space that is fractionally wider at the back. Nothing else in the mouth or above the tongue needs to change. This should help you with opening your throat for singing and for speaking.

You can test this by singing a note, then constrict and release on that same pitch. The vowel shape/sound/”darkness” should stay the same, but the sound should get first tighter/more turbulent, then clearer and more “open” without the vowel changing. If the vowel changes, you’re probably moving the body of the tongue. In our new book This Is A Voice we use the silent H technique to widen the false vocal folds, which we think is more user-friendly than the silent laugh and also avoids the problem of the smiling face.

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