Sex Toys For Your Voice
January 27, 2018 7:44 PM   Subscribe

University of Alberta drama professor David Ley was trying to help an actor friend who had big gigs coming up fast, and muscle tension that had messed up her voice. Manual massage wasn't good enough. Medical supply shops offered nothing useful. They they checked out a "love shop." “What do vocal folds do? They vibrate. What is resonance? It's sympathetic vibration, reciprocal vibration. So using vibration to create vibration shouldn't be a very big leap. . . . This is about how our bodies deal with vibration: The muscle will either tone up, or engage, to deal with the vibration, or it will release," Ley explains. "It's mainly about creating a flow of energy, and then it's really about release."

At her blog, The Liberated Voice, vocal fitness specialist and teacher Claudia Friedlander describes the effects of using a vibrator on her vocal production:

“During our first Skype session, Ley demonstrated how vocalizing while applying vibration directly to the larynx increases vocal energy and improves projection and range. When this is done correctly, the result is a fascinating sound: In addition to the basic wave produced by your voice, the vibrator elicits an additional related buzzy wave from the vocal folds. . . . This buzz is produced only when the vocal folds vibrate freely. Do anything at all to interfere with their movement, and you'll lose the buzz. It is therefore a reliable source of feedback. Suppose you are using the vibrator to work on a phrase, and you find that the buzz vanishes when you traverse certain intervals. If you can let go of your expectation of how the voice is supposed to move from pitch to pitch and seek only to maintain a continuous buzz, it will lead you to discover a means of using your voice that keeps the vocal folds free. It may steer you in a direction that you might otherwise never have thought to investigate, but like my students you'll probably figure out how to maintain a continuous buzz with just a few exploratory attempts.”

Ley and his partner, Elissa Weinzimmer, developed an online course called Vibrant Voice Technique. Medical disclaimer: "If you have a history of thrombosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, phlebitis, seizures, or if you have a heart condition or a pacemaker, you should consult your doctor before attempting this technique."

If you want to try to DIY, you should know that just any old vibrator you might have lying around won't work.

Weinzimmer and Ley explain to Chris Johnson and Steve Giles, hosts of the UK vocal coaching podcast The Naked Vocalist [at 22:45], "There’s a Goldilocks zone of speed and amplitude, especially amplitude. If there’s too much amplitude, it’s just going to react by tightening up. If there’s not enough amplitude it’s just going to go, ‘Wha? What’s going on there?’ Nothing’s going to happen. So you have to have the right amount of energy."

Recommended vibrators

More from that Naked Vocalist episode:
[23:35] Host:"Where do you apply the pressure?”
Weinzimmer: “Are you looking for tension release, or are you looking to enhance the resonance? . . . Tension release, come to any place that’s going to be a pressure point. . . . anywhere that you would massage with finger, apply the vibrator. On a minute level, the vibration is actually asking your muscle to engage and release, engage and release, it’s actually moving the muscle. If your muscle’s over-engaged, which is generally the case for most of us, then it’s going to encourage your muscle to release a bit. If your muscle's not engaged enough, it's possible it'll encourage it to engage. . . . Do a movement along with it. So instead of massaging with the vibrator, rotate the shoulder, or move the neck a bit, open and close the jaw, while you apply the vibration."

[25:25] “To encourage resonance: many singing teachers have said, ‘Think about forward placement, place it in the mask’ – what does this mean? . . . Apply vibration to front of my cheekbones, Oh, that's what that feels like . . . We’re bringing the vibrator to a place to encourage sensory awareness. This device speaks the language of our body.”

Double blind study with 27 participants, by authors Jennifer Anderson, Marta DeLuca, and Mary-Enid Haines: "Immediate Effects of External Vibration vs Placebo on Vocal Function Therapy in Singers," JAMA Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, January 4, 2018: “External vibration therapy was found to have a more predictable change in acoustic metrics after treatment than placebo; subjective effort to perform 6 voice tasks evaluated in the study was not found to be different between the external vibration therapy and placebo treatment."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus (13 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

Fascinating, thanks! I struggle constantly with tightness and constriction of my singing voice; looking forward to trying this.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:35 PM on January 27, 2018

I took a workshop on this with Ley. And then bought a vibrator and wrote it off as a business expense, oh yeaaaaaaah.
posted by stray at 10:08 PM on January 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

posted by lalochezia at 10:30 PM on January 27, 2018 [10 favorites]

This technique... it vibrates?
posted by Segundus at 2:40 AM on January 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Good good good, good vibrations
posted by oceanjesse at 7:20 AM on January 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Behold, the full circle from “personal massagers” being used as vibrators to vibrators being used for actual massage.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:13 AM on January 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

But then there's the danger of chipping your teeth.
posted by hal9k at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2018

I feel this is right up there with Scientology for "Elaborate jokes that people started taking seriously"
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:59 PM on January 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

I tried it, my husband tried it, and we both got immediate results with our singing that makes us happy. YMMV. (Telling other singers about it has been hilarious, of course.)
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:25 AM on January 29, 2018

I'm always skeptical when "energy" gets thrown around.
posted by runcibleshaw at 9:43 AM on January 29, 2018

"rotate the shoulder, or move the neck a bit, open and close the jaw, while you apply the vibration" ...sexiness aside, this reminds me of a manual therapy technique called myofascial rebounding. It does sort of jump over chronic tension in some people and help them relax a lot faster. I don't really understand it enough to give a scientific explanation, but it works on my body & on clients' bodies.
posted by zdravo at 12:38 PM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just discovered that Ley and Weinzimmer did an interview with Jaime Vendera, the singer who shattered a wine glass with his voice on Mythbusters. Interesting bits that aren't in the other links:
11:00 Ley had a scope done of himself singing the 3rd to 5th interval while applying the vibrator, & found that that interval creates lots of laryngeal tissue sympathetic vibration
17:00 Ley says it took about a year of doing it intermittently for his muscle memory to adapt to the point that he doesn't need to pick the vibrator up any more.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:11 PM on January 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Behold, the full circle from “personal massagers” being used as vibrators to vibrators being used for actual massage.

You're glossing over their original intended use as spider lures/fascinators.
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:50 PM on January 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

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