Laryngeal Suspension/Position Of Larynx

The position of the larynx in singing is quite important, for if the larynx is too high or too low then the singer will experience two basic kinds of immobility: 1. High Larynx, or 2. Low Larynx.  

1.) If the laryngeal position is too high, then the singer mostly experiences a choking sensation with tightness, narrowness, fatigue, and what amounts to a “closed throat” (constriction).  An old phrase used to describe this uncomfortability uses the analogy of a necktie that has been tightened too much around one’s neck. There will be difficulty moving around the range due to constriction, plus the sound will be pinched and often overly bright.  The elevated larynx can be common when in a certain phase of training especially as regards the falsetto voice, and in this case is not a cause for concern as one is working towards balance leading to healthy laryngeal suspension. Yet, if one normally sings with a high larynx, then this would be indicative of an issue with the balance between the stretcher and closer muscles (crico-thyroid and arytenoid).  Simply put, the closer muscle is not able to effectively brace or pull against the stretcher muscle as the pitch rises, and so the larynx goes up too much. Of course, this ripples outward with the extrinsic laryngeal muscles called elevators and depressors not being able to be exercised and trained to work together either.

2.) If the laryngeal position is too low then the singer mostly experiences a feeling of being trapped in the throat with some difficulties encountered as one tries to sing higher with the voice seemingly not wanting to stretch appropriately except with excessive volume and accompanying breath blasting.  Now, a slightly lower laryngeal position is not necessarily bad. As the voice develops, the larynx will stay sorta in the middle or slightly lower (different for the individual vowels and pitches). Yet, if one normally sings with a larynx that is lowered to the extreme, then this is indicative of a focus upon overt control.  This is a “doing too much” kind of problem where the larynx is forced to assume an exaggeratedly low position without actually having the muscular development for this to happen naturally. Thus, one must rely on an unnatural holding down of the larynx in order to achieve some desired effect. There might be a sense that one has achieved an “open throat” (no constriction), yet in actuality the throat is made to be enlarged with excess tension and rigidity introduced into the pharyngeal wall.  There is no way to open the throat volitionally. There is only throat constriction, or no throat constriction.  When the vocal muscles are balanced, the throat is without constriction and is “open.” There is no need to attempt to open the throat.  This will do nothing but introduce unnecessary tension. The too low laryngeal sound will be throaty, swallowed, and maybe overly dark. The point to be stressed here is that the laryngeal position should not be forced down and held.  Now, some opera singers have used what is called a lowered larynx technique with success. However, I would still posit that this technique is not totally in accord with functional vocal mechanics. For the vast majority of singers, this “technique” causes problems to arise rather than offering solutions.  There will always be amazing vocal anomalies that seem to defy nature, but for the rest of us, we have to learn what are the laws of healthy function and abide by those laws so as to be set free to sing well.

Too high or too low larynx, difficult situations to be sure, but ones that can be corrected over time with consistent work focusing on registrational balance.  When the laryngeal muscles involved in singing (intrinsic and extrinsic) are developed and coordinated, the larynx will assume a median position, free to move a little up, down, left, right, back and forth in all directions as is needed.  This freedom of movement is not something forced or overtly controlled, but is a response to proper function. Laryngeal position is not something to do but an allowing. It will happen when the voice has been sufficiently developed according to the laws of nature that take into account the principle of automaticity.

Allen Rascoe

about the author

Allen Rascoe Allen has been enjoying singing since he was a little kid. He officially studied voice at ECU and USC. However, he ran... Read More