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I have years of experience singing incorrectly on a hobbyist level. My voice has a lot of tension and I have very little concept of what makes up "good technique". I want to improve my singing tone quality, sing for longer periods of time without getting tired, and lower my risk of voice injury.

I found this book "The New Voice: How to Sing and Speak Properly" by a vocal pedagogue named Alan Greene. It's a short book, and I've skimmed most of it. To me (a layperson with bad technique), the things he's saying in the book make a lot of sense. He presents a course of about 30 exercises that you should use to get yourself comfortable with lowering your larynx, relaxing your tongue, and relaxing your soft palate. Some exercises also strengthen the mylohyoid muscle, which Greene says will help keep your vocal instrument open and stable.

Many of the exercises in the book, starting around exercise 18, ask you to put your finger on the root of your tongue, near the epiglottis. Greene says that this will help you master the sensation of keeping your tongue relaxed. He also says to try and avoid touching the epiglottis. I know that there's inherent risk in challenging yourself with any kind of exercise, but I'm worried that I'm especially likely to hurt myself while doing these particular exercises.

I like the book a lot from what I've seen; my voice (especially my tongue) is extremely tense, so many of the exercises targeting tension appeal to me. Unfortunately I can't find any reputable third-party sources that can attest to the safety of the exercises in the book.

So I have 2 questions:

  • Are these exercises involving touching the root of your tongue near the epiglottis reasonably safe?
  • Does anyone know of vocal pedagogues that endorse this book?

For context, here is a paraphrased version of an exercise from the book

Exercise 19:

  1. With the tip of the tongue touching the back of the lower teeth, place your forefinger in the middle of the front of your tongue. It should be soft to the touch.
  2. Keeping the larynx still, VERY slowly move your finger to the back of your tongue, making sure the tongue is relaxed as you go.
  3. Proceed past the back of the tongue slowly towards the root of the tongue. Keep the forefinger on the surface of the tongue to avoid touching the epiglottis.
  4. When you reach the root of the tongue stay there awhile. Become familiar with the sensation of a relaxed tongue.
  • 1
    Putting one's finger to the back of one's throat is a time-honoured way to induce vomiting! – Tim Apr 1 at 8:07
  • The author spends a long time talking about how you should learn to suppress your gag reflex. – johnny_boy Apr 1 at 14:45
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These exercises are simply too busy for someone starting at the beginning (the Inner Game of Tennis is an interesting read in this case -- if you burden a student with too many steps and details, they will naturally become more tense, and they won't learn as well).

I recommend looking into McCloskey technique: http://www.vocapedia.info/_Library/JOS_files_Vocapedia/An_Introduction_to_the_McClosky_Technique.pdf

You'll do a number of laryngeal and facial massages, but here's the gist: keep your muscle groups and larynx and relaxed as possible. This, in turn will relax the throat and voice, and it won't impede your air flow either. Relaxed muscles + open throat/oral cavity + unimpeded air flow = beautiful and tension free sound production.

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I would personally toss that book out. Any one that would tell you to put your finger in your mouth, poke yourself in the stomach or cut a piece of your tongue so you can sing better needs to be avoided!

I would recommend Brett Manning. I've been studying with him and his exercises are simple and easy and teach you to sing properly (yeah, I know , stop the advertising! :) )

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