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My voice won't come out - the (tight) sound of vocal constriction

Posted by Jeremy Fisher on 11/6/2013 to Applying our work - your questions
You're in a stressful situation, you open your mouth to speak or sing, and nothing comes out. What's happening?

It was fine when you practised, but when you get to the audition your voice seems to come out through a veil, something seems to be stopping your sound from being free...

You have vocal constriction.

This feeling of tight throat and vocal strain is made in a specific place in your throat. The good news is, we can show you how to deal with it.

You have two sets of vocal folds, true and false. The true vocal folds are the ones we use to speak and sing. The false vocal folds are used for protection, to close off the larynx when we're eating and swallowing, and to help us use our larynx as a pressure valve for lifting heavy objects.

Both sets of vocal folds lie very close together in your throat. In normal singing and speaking, we only want to use the true vocal folds. But when you're under stress and strain, or if you're nervous or physically tired, the false vocal folds come in and start to interfere with the sound you make.

In addition, if you do a lot of weight training, you might need to use your false vocal folds to give you extra strength for lifting. That might impress the other people in the gym, but it won't do your voice any good at all.

You can learn to control your false vocal folds, to keep them out of the way (if you want an open throat and clear sound). Gillyanne writes about the silent laugh technique in her book Singing and the Actor. This is one of the techniques we use in many of our Webinars, DVDs and CD to help you find an open, clear sound.

This technique can help:
  • teachers
  • lecturers
  • business people who need to make pitches and presentations
  • sports trainers and coaches
  • singers and actors
  • dancers
  • choreographers
  • occupational voice users
  • people who occasionally need to make a speech
If you want to find out more, the silent laugh or open throat techniques appear on the following Vocal Process resources:
The 5 minute Vocal Warm Up CD
The Constriction and Release - The Techniques DVD
Webinar 10 - Maintaining a Healthy Speaking Voice (A World Voice Day Special)
and of course
The Singing and the Actor book

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