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How high or low should your larynx be when you sing? This question is steeped in controversy and misunderstanding. However, it’s also vitally important. Get it too wrong and you’ll have some big vocal problems.

The controversy

Voice teachers don’t always agree on what’s best. If I understand it correctly (and please note I am not an expert in this kind of training), the Speech Level Singing (or SLS) method of Seth Riggs teaches that you should always have your larynx at the same level that you speak.  However, vocal coach Lisa Popiel suggests that there are times you would be correct to slightly raise or lower the larynx. She names 5 laryngeal positions, from #1 which is very raised to #5 which is very lowered.

  • She suggests that some rock singing and saucy musical theater tends to use a slightly more raised position (#2),
  • while classical, cabaret jazz and some R&B singing requires a slightly lowered position (#4). 
  • She warns that no one should ever use positions #1 (very raised) or #5 (very lowered).
Vocal coach Molly Webb also advises a movable larynx, and discusses the possible origins of the ‘stable larynx’ training. Quoting her from her article:

The larynx does (and should) move when you sing, and not just for controversial techniques like belting. Even in classical singing, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) studies have confirmed that the larynx gently rises up on the higher pitches, and depresses on the lower ones.

Here’s what I recommend, from my experience with my and my clients’ voices: 


As long as you only raise or lower the larynx so that you don’t feel your throat or experience strain or fatigue, what you’re doing is fine. In fact, as a session singer (or stunt singer, as I call it), I have to do sometimes over-do this to blend with all kinds of voices and styles for recording. Changing the level of the larynx is a way to create more tone colors than usual. Various character roles in musical theater can require more unusual tone choices, too.

In fact, it’s not just slight raising and lowering that we need to allow. To accomplish higher notes, the thyroid cartilage which comprises the largest part of the larynx needs to be free to tilt in your neck! Tension in and around the larynx from trying to keep the Adam’s apple stationary can interfere with these movements. What’s the Adam’s apple you say? Officially named the larygeal prominence, it’s the pointy front of the thyroid cartilage that sticks out as a bump right in the middle of the neck. It’s very noticeable in a man but a woman has a small one, too. I like to call it ‘Eve’s apple’! The front end of the vocal cords are attached directly behind it.

However, and it’s a great big ‘however’, you should not lower or raise your larynx to the point that you become aware of it. That will give you vocal problems. Most contemporary genre singing really should be in what Lisa Popiel would call #3, the middle position, with the larynx freely and comfortably floating and tilting in the throat.

What can you do if your Adam’s apple and larynx are too stationary, not free to move?

Well, a real ninja trick that works here is to get your jaw dropping and Moving more flexibly in a bit of a chewing circle. A freer jaw will let the base of your tongue relax so it relaxes its tense restriction on the movement of the hyoid bone, which is the top of your larynx. To paraphrase the old song ‘the jawbone’s (indirectly) connected to the hyoid bone…’

What can you do if you are raising or lowering your voice box (larynx) too much?

Learning to PULL instead of PUSH your voice, as taught in my Power, Path & Performance method, is the best way I’ve found to protect your delicate and precious vocal instrument, and will help you immensely. This pulling instead of pushing for sound, among other things, allows the larynx to determine it’s best position with no outside interference. Also…

Here is a very effective exercise I adapted for my students from yet another great voice teacher, the late Jeannie Deva:

Lightly touch your adam’s apple with the tips of your fingers. Feel for it in the middle of the front of your neck; and ladies it will just be a little bump. Again, this is where the vocal cords are attached at one end, inside the thyroid cartilage. Now, just let your fingers be “brain flashlights” and make a mental intention not to tense the area under your fingers as you sing. It’s an amazing tactic when your larynx tries to lift for high notes. Notice how high notes, including higher middle voice notes, just float out almost effortlessly instead of strain!

For low notes, try this to keep your larynx from lowering too much: Stand tall and put your hand on your sternum and try to pull your voice from there. It will help your lower notes sound rich, not hooty, and will feel better, too. Don’t bend over or down to get the notes. Be aware of the vibration and keep your chest open.

In conclusion: Go with what WORKS:

These are great voice teachers I’ve named in this post. It can get confusing, I know, when experts differ. All I can be sure of is what I’ve experienced that WORKS, and this should be your criteria, too. From my experience, I say mostly just keep your larynx happily floating, actually rocking a bit, in the center of your neck. Allowing it the freedom to move slightly lower or higher should give your voice a wider range without strain!

Want some incredibly effective vocal exercises to get this right? Either book a lesson with me or get one of my vocal training products, all of which include not only exercises, but how to do them.

Want to see more detail? 

Here’s a great video tutorial put out by AnatomyZone. For shortcuts, go to:
  • 1:45 min for the hyoid bone.
  • 4:45 min for the thyroid cartilage and the laryngeal prominence (Adam’s apple).

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Originally Published on https://www.judyrodman.com/

Judy Rodman Vocal Coach

I'm an award-winning vocal coach, recording artist, live performer, public speaker, published author, songwriter, musician, studio producer, blogger, podcaster and vocal consultant with over 50 years of success in the music and voice industry.

As vocal coach online globally, I help develop, maximize and protect voices of singers & speakers who seek to make the world better with their messages and artistic influence. My students and recording clients have appeared on The Today Show, Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres, The Voice, American Idol, America's Got Talent, Grammys, CMA, ACM & MTV Awards Shows, New York Times Best Seller list. They include major and indie recording artists and labels, artist development companies, touring and studio background singers, national public speakers, radio & TV personnel, teachers and voiceover actors.

My career credits include being voted ‘Best Vocal Coach' by Nashville Music Pros, 'Vocal Coach in Residence' by TC Helicon's VoiceCouncil Magazine, #1 and other top-10 Billboard singles as artist on MTM Records, winner of Billboard's and ACM's 'New Female Vocalist' award, BMI 'Million Air' award.

I'm a published author with several vocal training packages on disc and as online video courses. My blog and podcast ‘All Things Vocal’ have received over 2 million views and plays.

With thousands of studio credits, I produce country, pop, rock, singer/songwriter and r&b projects, working in the studio online and in-person. I also specialize as vocal producer on teams headed by other studio producers, and create arrangements and sing background vocals.
Member of SAG-AFTRA, BMI, AFM Local 257, ACM, NATS, I'm based in Nashville, Tennessee.

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