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Understanding the pharynx and how it works with regard to singing can make a huge difference in a singer's voice. The pharynx is simply a passageway from the nasal cavity down to the larynx (and then continuing into the esophagus). It is known to have three different regions: the naso-pharynx (located behind the nose), the oro-pharynx (located in the rear of the mouth), and the laryngo-pharynx (behind the throat).
Just like the pharynx is actually one component divided into three regions for easy reference, singing voices are often categorized in registers (chest voice, middle voice, head voice, falsetto). These regions/registers have assigned names which indicate the tonal quality changes that occur when moving from pitch range to pitch range.
The chest voice is often associated with deep, warm, rich, thick sounds.
The middle voice is generally associated with middle pitch ranges, and warm, rich tones. The middle voice also extends to the inclusion of the vocal mask and a warm, heady sound.
The head voice (women) and falsetto (men) are associated with light, bright singing tones that are higher in pitch and resonate within the upper sinus cavities. (Some singers consider warm, heady tones associated with the vocal mask as the head voice and never reach their range potential.
Review the diagram above (be sure to note the pharynx & resonating cavities) and consider the following analogy and theory: The vocal instrument, your body, is a multi-level building and the pharynx is the elevator inside running from top to bottom.
Sinus cavities are the penthouse and associated with the highest pitches.
The nasal cavity, naso-pharynx, and vocal mask represent the top floors.
The oral cavity, oro-pharynx, and soft palate represent the middle floors.
The upper chest cavity and laryngo-pharynx represent the first floors.
The lower chest cavity represents the building basement and associated with the lowest pitches.
Many singers refuse to use the elevator which moves effortlessly to the next pitch. Instead they laboriously climb the building staircase, often taking mental note of each and every stair landing (register or note change). Instead of concentrating on one floor (or one note) at a time, learn to use the pharynx to your advantage and improve the overall tonality of your voice. This technique will also increase your range. Use the following glissando vocal exercise to test out the concept. Be sure your body and instrument are free of tension before beginning.
On the syllable "HEEE" we are going to start on a comfortable low note in our range and slide one pitch at a time to a comfortable high note in our range (from the bottom floor to the top floor of the building, currently ignore the basement and penthouse). Follow these exact instructions:
1. Think about the comfortable low pitch you are going to start on ? hear it in your head.
2. As you initiate the pitch, actually create the mind picture of the elevator beginning in your chest.
3. Begin to slide on the syllable "HEEE", pitch to pitch, up to the comfortable high note. With each note, picture the elevator on a steady, smooth and effortless rise to the top.
4. You will need to gradually increase your airflow with each pitch.
5. Know your top pitch. Hear the top note you wish to hit in your head. As the educated elevator doorman, make a definite yet easy stop once the destination is reached.
The transition between one registers often produces a vocal tone that breaks and cracks, or experiences a great change in quality. The first goal is to sing the "HEEE" syllable strongly over each note; even through a break or tone change should one occur. Repeating this exercise over time will help you gain the necessary strength and coordination to negotiate pitch changes without cracks or breaks. It will also help you develop a full and natural singing voice, with an enviable singing range.
Post anything thoughts/comments you may have related to our music. We have four discs out; Made In America, Sex lies and Politiks, Next!, and Game of love. We would love to hear from you....
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