July 13, 2014

The Throne of the Pharynx 1

Francesco Lamperti (1811-1892) 
In singing, a good position is most essential. Stand upon the balls of the feet, hold the knees firm, the hips, abdomen and shoulders back. The chest raised and prominent the head bent slightly forward in a persuasive tranquil manner, as repose, tranquility of mind and body is absolutely necessary for the singer; make repose your first study. 

The first organ involved in singing is the nose. Close the lips; take a breath through the nose. Where do you feel it first? 

At the bridge of the anterior and posterior nares. Back of the bridge, and back of and above the palate, is the throne of the pharynx, and this is another strong point for the singer; one of the two; first important points to be considered (never to be lost sight of; never to be let go of). It is first and always (not only in making the head tones, but all tones, from the highest to the lowest, must be supported here). Feel that this is the abiding place of tone. We call it the throne of the singer, for as long as he has control here, he has control of his voice, but when he has lost control of this point, he has lost his kingdom as a singer. 

He may lose it by simply letting go of it, and taking up the throat muscles instead, when they should always be left perfectly free and passive. Many a singers mourns his voice as lost, when he has merely let go of this point of support. It does not require pressure or contraction, but simply the feeling that you direct, balance, hold and support the tone from this point the whole upper part of the pharynx to the very nostrils. 

The next step is to take a deep, full, slow, inspiration, filling the lungs from the very bottom. In escaping, the air passes through the top, so the top is always supplied. 

When we have acquired control of the breath, the next step is to open the back part of the mouth. Think of the singer's throne at the back and top of the pharynx and raise the soft palate and head muscles without effort, widen the whole pharynx. The very thought will do it. You will observe at once the change even in the speaking voice; alway support the tone with balanced ease. 

Intensity comes through control at the throne of the pharynx. 

—Student of Francesco Lamperti, Manuel García and Antonio Sangiovanni  c. 1890   


  1. Hello Mr Shigo,
    Do you think the throne, as mentioned above, is the same place dr. Tomatis recommends for humming?

    Robert van Leeuwen

    1. Thank you for your comment, Robert van Leeuwen. Interesting question. Tomatis writes about setting the whole spine and structure of the head into vibration utilizing "Listening Posture" and humming--the latter having been (unfortunately) left out of the english translation of "The Ear and the Voice." To answer your question: I understand the teaching of the old Italian school of singing and the work of Tomatis to be in agreement. Paul Madaule has written about the use of the hum which you can find at his website--The Listening Centre.

    2. It's now 2 years later, but I want to add to my reply above. I also want to give my reply a point of context: Lamperti was vociferous in his opposition to humming. If he heard you humming in the studio, he would send you home. What can we surmise from this? That he wanted to hear open-throated vowels. As such, his teaching of the "spot" in the head is related to this. So, while the teaching of Lamperti and Tomatis do intersect, their expression of ideas is different.


I welcome your comments.