The larynx is a cartilage structure that contains multiple moving parts and joints, including the vocal folds. It is located inside the neck, and is commonly referred to as the “voice box.” As air passes up through the larynx, the vocal folds will vibrate, creating sound. Understanding the larynx is a crucial part of trans voice training. It is a key player in voice feminization, as well as a dominant contributor to the overall strength and clarity of both mtf and ftm singers.
If you place your hand gently around your neck and swallow, you will feel movement underneath the skin. This is the larynx rising up, and then falling back down to complete the swallow. The larynx will also move when we are speaking and singing— these different positions of the larynx will create a variety of results in the voice. With specific vocal exercises, it is possible to train the larynx to sustain positions that will create either a more feminine or a more masculine sounding voice. In addition, proper balance of the larynx will create clearer tone, wider singing range, and a more relaxed and healthy singing experience.
For a more in depth explanation on the different positions of larynx, check out our articles on M0, M1, M2, & M3. You can also learn more about the larynx’s pivotal role in trans voice training in our article on R1.
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What are M1, M2 & M3?
In a previous article we discussed M0, which is the ground level “laryngeal vibratory mechanism” in the human voice. You can refer back to that article for a more complete explanation of LVMs and how they factor into trans voice training. In this piece we will be discussing M1, M2 and M3.
M1 is the next mechanism above M0, and it is commonly referred to as “normal voice” because it creates the majority of human speaking voices. M1 is also called the “chest register,” although the voice will resonate in more places than just the bones of the chest. M1 creates low and medium pitch, and has the potential to generate a rich bass tone. Both mtf and ftm trans voice students will benefit from proper control of M1, because it offers the ability to adjust the mix of low and medium frequencies in the voice.
M2 is the next LVM, and it is commonly called the “head register,” although the voice will resonate in more places than just the bones of the head. M2 is responsible for creating high pitch, and is referred to as “falsetto” in males and “head voice” in females. For mtf students, training M2 has the potential to strengthen and expand the range of falsetto, creating a powerful and expressive high voice. In trans voice training this process is often called “vocal twang” creation.
M3 is the final LVM, and it is commonly called the “whistle register.” This mechanism produces the highest pitch in the human voice. Sound created here will have a narrow and piercing quality, due to the fact that some of the frequencies are too high to be perceived by the human ear.
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What is M0?
M0, meaning “mechanism 0,” is a specific mode of the human voice. The voice is produced when air flows through the vocal folds, which are located in the larynx (throat/Adam’s apple). As air passes through, the folds begin to vibrate, creating sound. Within this process there are different “modes” of vibration that the vocal folds can execute, each producing a specific quality of sound. These modes are referred to as “laryngeal vibratory mechanisms” (LVMs), or more regularly called “vocal registers.” There are four LVMs in the human voice, M0, M1, M2, and M3. Learning to differentiate and control the LVMs will be an important part of trans voice training.
M0 is commonly referred to as “vocal fry.” This mechanism produces a gritty, croaky sound— almost like the folds are popping against each other. M0 is created at the lowest point of the voice, and is usually inharmonic, meaning that it has no pitch. Despite this, M0 still has important applications for trans voice students; particularly mtf students who are striving to achieve vocal feminization. The gritty sound of M0 is easily affected by changes in the thickness and movement of the vocal folds. Therefore, as you learn to control M0, you gain better control of your vocal resonance overall. (Check our blog posts on R1 and R2 for more information on resonance). In addition, the quality of M0 is very distinct and easy to feel, so it is a valuable point of reference for trans students who are learning to detect changes in their vocal folds for the first time.
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