Laryngeal and Vocal Fold Warm up and Exercises
The following exercises are designed to reduce vocal fold and laryngeal tension and to increase range of motion, balance between airflow and vocal fold closure and to ease vocal production. If possible, complete one or two times daily (in the morning and in the afternoon or evening).
The Warm Up
- Take the first two to three minutes stretching your upper body (or if you have time the whole body). Reach up with your arms; try to bring your elbows together in the back. Shake your hands down by your side.
- Roll your shoulders. Begin first with the left shoulder. Roll it eight to 10 times. Allow the rotations to become larger as it is comfortable to do so. Repeat with the right shoulder. Make the movements slow and easy.
- Roll your neck with eight to 10 rotations to the right and left. Make these motions slow and sweeping. Start with your chin straight down against your sternum. Think about your chin as a pendulum. Roll your chin over to the right shoulder. Hold this position for a slow count to five. Move your chin back to the middle. Repeat on the left side. Each time you roll, stop in the middle. Hold these positions for a slow count of five. When you do this activity, let your mouth open slightly.
- Now, take 10 deep breaths into the lower abdomen. Feel your stomach expand; feel your lower back fill with air. Pay careful attention to your chest and neck which should both remain still and flat. Lay a hand on your stomach and one on your chest to feel their movements.
As you breathe in, the stomach should move outward. As you breathe out, the stomach should flatten. Remember that breathing is a matter of moving the muscles of the stomach, without tensing the muscles of the chest and shoulders.
After the 10 breaths, inhale through the nose or pursed lips then exhale with five easy “S” sounds. After producing “S”, switch to “Z”. Concentrate on the vibration of your tongue and roof of your mouth. Make sure your shoulders remain still.
- Try some easy, exaggerated chewing, like you have a few pieces of bubble gum in your mouth. If necessary, use your hands to massage your cheeks. Chew for two to three minutes without making sound, then chant or hum while you are chewing. Let your voice come out easily and softly.
- Once you feel relaxed and warmed up, try counting in sequence, one (inhale); one, two (inhale); one, two, three (inhale); one, two, three, four (inhale); one, two, three, four, five (inhale); one, two, three, four, five, six (inhale), etc. Open your mouth as you count and support your breath with your abdomen. Remember to use short inhales and longer exhales as you increase each sequence. Count slowly and continuously—making all the numbers connect together. As soon as you feel tension or are out of breath, stop. Set a goal for how long you can comfortably count (10, 15, 20?).
Laryngeal and Vocal Cord Exercises
These exercises should be completed slowly and with attention to your voice quality. They should be done at as low a volume as you can sustain. Anyone can belt out sounds, but the exercise is in maintaining improved voice quality in your softest register. Have some water close by so you can take sips during these exercises.
- The Yawn-Sigh: Begin by attempting the most authentic yawn you can imagine. Lift your chin slightly; open the mouth wide so that you feel a stretch in the jaw. Feel your voice box in your throat with your flat hand on your neck. It should go down when you yawn. Pull your tongue back along the floor of the mouth, and breathe in deeply. You may yawn better by stretching your arms and shoulders as one might do in the morning.
As you exhale, sigh ‘ah’ and hold it out for three to five seconds. The voice quality should be soft and cottony as it comes from deep in your throat. Don’t allow the voice to turn off mid-way through your sigh. The exercise is in the soft cottony sigh. You should feel really open in your throat. Repeat these yawn-sighs eight to 10 times slowly with attention to the quality of the voice, the accuracy of your form, and the feeling of openness you get.
- The Fog Horn: Begin with a deep lower abdominal breath (see step one of the warm up on page 1). Purse your lips into a narrow ‘O’ shape. Make an ‘oo’ vowel sound (like ‘oops’) on a low comfortable note and hold for six to eight seconds. Your voice quality should be very quiet and breathy. Relax the cheeks and allow the breath to puff them out. There should be some air flow through your lips (like you would do to make a candle light flicker). If you are doing this exercise properly, you will feel a vibration in your lips or nose. If you don’t feel this, try using a lower pitch and more air. Repeat 10 times.
- The Lip or Tongue Trill: This exercise is similar to the fog horn above. Begin by taking a deep lower abdominal breath. Bring the lips together and jut them out slightly. Make sure your lips and cheeks are relaxed. Begin breathing out as you produce the sound “Brrrr.” The lips should trill consistently. If they stop moving or stop trilling, take another breath and begin again. If you have trouble trilling with your lips, try your tongue. Repeat 10 times.
- The Pitch Slide: Your goal is to slide softly from your lowest pitch to your highest pitch as you say the word “Whoop.” Make sure the sound is soft, with lots of breath support and with an extra ‘puh’ sound at the end of the word. Imagine saying “Whoop-puh.” Repeat eight to 10 times, then reverse and slide your pitch from high to low. This time, say the word “boom.” Repeat eight to 10 times. In both cases, focus on the sound and vibration at your lips. The goal is to perform the slides without voice breaks.