Hey there, Everybody! Happy 2012! Have you heard the term “pharyngeal voice” before? If you’ve watched American Idol or The Voice, maybe you have. It is the “witchy” voice, the “twangy voice”, the “belt-y” voice. Think Aretha Franklin, Fantasia, Chaka Khan, Heart singer Ann Wilson. This type of sound used to sound “like cats singing”, to classically trained singers. Then came Robert Plant and lots of other rock singers, and it was obvious that they had managed to make a sound that normal voice lessons didn’t cover. Flash forward to all the singing competitions on TV and the Broadway shows popular now, and you see that you cannot sing current songs unless you know how to do a pharyngeal voice.
There is lots of controversy about how the vocal folds (cords) work in a pharyngeal voice (or twang)–most of the well-known coaches today advocate that there is vocal cord “damping”, where the back two-thirds of the cords are not vibrating. According to a new study, this doesn’t happen, however. What happens is the throat space “pharyngeal” space, changes. The air flow becomes LESS, and the throat space becomes smaller. This is exactly the opposite of what a singer might suppose happens when those big, giant, seamless high notes come out of your favorite singer.
One way of practicing this is Quick Fix #1. The Siamese Cat Exercise. I have demonstrated this on my Youtube channel, jilljaxxteaches. The video is called “Babette the Cat Teaches Belting.” In the video, I show you how to actually imitate a cat yowling, or meowing, and use your claws when you do it! (Seriously). This is a great sound to practice all your vowels on, and to experience the pharyngeal sound. Go up the scale with this–it will amaze you with the HUGE sound and brilliance.
Another way to practice this is with the Metallic Beeps, Quick Fix #2. which I show you how to do on my DVD, “Learn To Sing Better Fast”. (Available at my website www.learntosingbetterfast.com). These are produced with a lot of air pressure behind the lips, which explode out when you make the “beep”. The sound can be made up and down the scale, and is metallic in quality, not “singy”. Use the beeps on a phrase of a song you find difficult, and then substitute the words. Another good thing to practice would be shifting to right brain here, which I completely endorse if you want to have a breakthrough with your singing! This can be accomplished by THINKING of the vowel you sing, and how to form it, instead of the word. The right brain is in charge of this, and you will be surprised at how that can improve your singing immediately.
Another way to practice the pharyngeal voice is to (Quick Fix #3)feel your tongue in the correct position: fat, high in the middle, and with the sides touching your upper molars. The tip of the tongue can be tensed forward, pushing against your bottom teeth. Try singing the chorus of “Hopelessly Devoted To You” if you’re a girl, and “ Brown-Eyed Girl” or any Train song if you’re a guy. Know that the sound you’re going to make will sound bright, ugly, and arguably ugly. Don’t worry, you’re on the right track. And get your claws going–it’ll make the pharyngeal voice so much easier!