Jul 032002

Speech and Language Therapy in Practice magazine sent its editor, Avril Nicoll, to one of our day courses in Aberdeen. Here are some excerpts from her article, “The Vocal Process”.

“Having left what passed for a singing voice behind with the school choir, I didn’t expect to find myself driving home retracting, anchoring and half opening my port (a la Ronan Keating, apparently). Raising the plane and belting have proved somewhat beyond me but I’ve since also practised raising and lowering my larynx and going for the top notes with ‘n’ and ‘ng’ together – and my children have enjoyed me cackling like a witch in pursuit of a twang…

Jeremy Fisher’s model of a larynx cost £100 – but the one he made himself from paper and fasteners actually moves and is, therefore, unforgettable. They may refer to themselves as ‘voice nerds’, but the flexibility of Gillyanne and Jeremy’s voices inspires you to experiment with your own voice and to believe you can improve it.

The structures that can be moved voluntarily are:

– vocal folds and false vocal folds

– soft palate

– pharynx – width; length

– larynx – up or down

– head/neck and torso (‘anchoring’)

– tongue

– aryepiglottic sphincter

– laryngeal cartilage – thyroid; cricoid.

This course was focused on singers, but there was much for speech and language therapists too. We spend time teaching relaxation to clients with voice problems, often working on general body tension and taking the focus off the larynx. This system rather turns that on its head. As effort has a tendency to spread, students are taught to locate it, and to use larger muscles as scaffolding. The tutors suggest getting people to increase their level of tension so they have something to work back from, and / or asking them to grade their effort on a scale of 1-10, getting them to reduce it even down to a half or a quarter if they still appear tense.

‘Anchoring’ takes hyperfunction from the vocal folds, and also helps glottic chink. (The first brave soul to undergo a master class session had quite dramatic changes in her singing volume through improved anchoring.) People with hypertension in the larynx often also have it in the soft palate, so it is worth learning control over it too. These ‘port’ exercises are also recommended for people with swallowing difficulties.”

To find out more about Vocal Process courses, Retreats and onsite training, click here

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