In this section, we’ll be applying the same concepts of resonance to the laryngopharynx. So I guess this is basically just a continuation of last chapter, I just didn’t want to lump too much in one section, so here you go.
To produce sound, the vocal folds vibrate back and forth, running into each other at high speeds. The Open Quotient is basically the amount of time the vocal folds are open within a glottal (vibration) cycle.
When you whisper, your vocal folds tend to remain open for longer during the glottal cycle, whereas when you tense your voice (for instance, when screaming), the vocal folds stay closed for most of the cycle. The vocal folds will contract any time you’re tense though, as tends to happen when hitting notes high in our vocal register. We want to avoid that as much as possible.
Ideally, we want an open enough quotient that our voice is soft and maybe just a little breathy, without being too whispery. We still want a full sound, just without fully engaging the vocal folds.
Let’s try the “Ah-Ha” exercise. Say “ah”, but make it short and abrupt (staccato me some “ah” 1/8 notes, thanks!). Then whisper “ha”. Notice how your vocal folds feel tight on “ah” but loose on “ha”? Now try going back and forth between the sounded “ah” and the whispered “ha”, letting your voice gently glide between the two. That area in between is what we’re looking for.
Let your voice glide from a whisper to a normal speaking voice. It’ll probably sound choppy at first, but keep going back to the whisper and gradually applying more vocal fold compression until you make it a seamless transition.
I know I know. We just spent the whole last section harping on not constricting things. Okay but hear me out though. The aryepiglottic sphincter (AES) is a muscle situated at the top of the larynx right above the vocal folds. When we tighten this muscle, the space above the vocal folds becomes smaller, creating what’s known as vocal twang. It gives a brighter, brassier tone.
This is also beneficial because this will allow your voice to project without dipping into chest voice. AES constriction is an efficient way of producing volume and clarity without much effort, and it also just happens to sound cool.
Okay, now quack like a duck. Cry like a baby. Talk like a robot. Auctioneers have fantastic vocal twang – mimic that! Feel feminine yet? No? That’s okay, beauty is pain. It gets better, I promise. All of these character voices have great vocal twang because they require you to constrict your AES, narrowing your throat.
Now try talking in these character voices, and gradually dial it back. Obviously the goal isn’t to sound like a duck or a robot. But pay attention to how that AES muscle feels and how to engage it, and you’ll be able to apply the technique (albeit more subtly) to your speaking voice.