“Laryngeal tilt” – a fetish phrase

This term drives me nuts. It’s a great example of describing what happens, but not what to do. If you sing a rising octave sliding between the pitches, and keep it gentle and sweet rather than loud or powerful, you can get in touch with the fact that yes, the cricothyroid muscles pull the thyroid cartilage forward. Many teachers talk about “working on laryngeal tilt”. Why? When did we become so fond of going after effects instead of causes? Is your larynx tilting because you are consciously specifically commanding your CT muscles to contract?

Um, no. You get the CT muscles to contract and the larynx to “tilt” by singing a higher pitch in an untangled manner. It happens. Some people develop the ability to manifest this and other effects in isolation (so it seems) – even without phonation. They believe that the effects become “controllable variables” that can be added to their checklist when they are singing. That is the path to insanity. If you start taking measurements and moving objects around in your vocal tract according to every vowel, pitch, volume, and timbre that you intend, you will fail to reach your most free and responsive vocalism. If we are going to go down Making Effects Avenue, then the logical conclusion would be using math to figure out how many possible configurations need to be created. It could be thousands, and they need to be adjusted whenever a vowel, volume, pitch, or tonal quality changes, which means literally constantly.

There are thousands of possible effects to get interested in and fetishize. “Laryngeal tilt” is a hot one these days, but it isn’t getting us anywhere. The musical elements that create the tilt, on the other hand, are well worth working on, and we get the effect when things are working great. In a holistic act like singing you can virtually never reverse-engineer from a surface phenomenon.

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