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I’m gonna run through here what I’ve been experimenting on myself to map the size and location and shape of the vocal folds. For the uninitiated, bodymapping was developed by Alexander Technique teachers Barbara and William Conable, both of whom are musicians (I think). Bodymapping is basically the process of rendering and refining the map in your brain so that it is truer to reality. The concept has parallels with the older Feldenkrais term of “self image”, and Feldenkrais liked to demonstrate how inaccurate people’s conception of themselves were by making them guess the width of their lips with one finger of each hand, and some people were off by 300%. Simon Thakur describes the bodymap in much simpler and better detail than I could, so read his article.

Why would you want to bodymap? Because the action you want to improve in will, erm, improve. The information you get from calibration (zeroing in on something via many trials and errors) will be better and you can calibrate better. For instance, if the map of your arm and shoulder is smaller/larger than what it actually is, your calibration to throw a ball to a particular point will be made much more difficult due to the fundamental information and sensations you are receiving being inaccurate. A better analogy perhaps would be wearing magnifying glasses while throwing the ball, instead of glasses that will provide accurate vision. You will be able to adjust, but it will be a maladjustment.

Many moons ago when I was taking voice lessons with Michael Mayer, we used a light cough to feel where the vocal folds were, and then I was instructed to speak/sing the vowel from where I felt that location was. This light cough will be the basis of our exploration.

The following is best done lying in a bed or on the floor.

You can make the cough so light that it just becomes a click. (It is important that it is a click otherwise you may hurt your voice a bit if you do cough for an extended period of time.) Then you sense, feel and perceive. You can do variations of speed, strength of the click, rhythm, in order to gain better and different information as to the shape, size and location of the vocal folds. If you’re anything like me, the front of the vocal folds will become clearer and clearer but the back of the vocal folds won’t, so you have to make a special effort to sense and infer from the sensations you receive the whole length of the vocal fold. Asking yourself questions can help you better interpret the sensations you receive: where are my vocal folds? How long are they? How thick? What does the front, middle and back of the vocal fold feel like when compared to each other? How high/low in the throat are my vocal folds?

This process of questioning oneself and interpreting the sensations will be used for all subsequent variations. It’s handy, possibly critical to have in mind various diagrams of the vocal tract and larynx so that you can better interpret the sensations you receive. One of the issues of mapping the voice is that much of it is invisible, thus we have to rely on inference and visualisation in order to improve the accuracy of our bodymap. Here are a couple of informative links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocal_tract https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhP31dXi7dUrfWZqAwov91y2tUcKARfDu

Variation 1: inhale cough/click. Air can go both ways, so the inhale click is a nice variation. Again, same questions of location, length, size, shape, high/low in the throat. The sensations will be slightly different, helping to round out the picture more.

Variation 2: high, middle, low click. By doing a whiny cough or a dopey/yawny cough, you are changing the height of the larynx and subsequently the location of the vocal folds. Whiny is high in the throat, dopey low/deep in the throat. Middle/neutral is what we’ve been doing so far. You can also do the inhaling click with the high, middle, low larynx.

Variation 3: Vowels with the click. No vibration is being made, you are just clicking with the mouth, tongue and throat shapes of the vowels Ah-Eh-Ee-Oh-Oo. You can do this inhaling and also with high, middle, low larynx. One thing to note is that the vowels will naturally change the height of the larynx due to their requirements, and changing the height of the larynx on purpose will change the whinyness or dopeyness of the vowels.

Variation 4: Alphabet, nursery rhymes, a song you are working on. Similar to variation 3, but this time with more real world application. Again, those questions of location, size, length of the vocal folds, but this time with the combination of consonants and vowels. You can also do the inhalation and high, middle, low larynx variations too.

Variation 5: shifting the larynx to one side and clicking. You can actually grab the larynx by the thyroid cartilage, shift it to one side (gently, doesn’t have to be far), and do the clicking. This will move the vocal folds slightly left/right. You can also do another variation where you can shift your larynx to one side and either turn your whole head to the same side or turn your head to the opposite side e.g. shift larynx left with your hand, turn your head to the right. When you do the opposite version, it’s weird because your larynx and vocal folds remain in the middle but not the middle relative to your head.

Variation 6: head position. This time no larynx grabbing but simply turning, or head up/down, or tilting the head. The larynx and vocal folds remain in its usual position relative to the head but move in absolute space. You can explore using positions e.g. turning left and staying left or movements e.g head up and down, left and right, tilting left and right, circles, figure 8. The location of the folds both simultaneously changes and remains the same.

Variation 7: tongue variations. If you find the height variations a bit difficult to realise, the tongue can help. Sticking out the tongue forward and up to touch the top lip can help you find the high larynx, sticking the tongue down and in the throat will help you find the low larynx. You can also do the tongue variations of left/right corner of the mouth, although I’m not sure of the benefit aside from maybe increased independence of tongue and larynx.

Variation 8: using the voice. This time we are actually saying/singing something and again asking ourselves the questions of location, size, length, front/middle/back. If things become unclear, we can go back to clicking. Then say/sing the same thing and see if things become clearer in our perception.

Phew.

Once you’ve done all this you will ascend to vocal heaven and the angels will be jealous of your vocal prowess and purity.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

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