Practicing so-called mask singing subverts the muscular process that lowers the larynx; in effect, it conditions a muscular response that causes the larynx to rise. This conditioned response could become so powerful that as soon as a singer opens his mouth to sing, the larynx instantly rises. An uncontrolled rising larynx militates against artistic singing and undermines the proper functioning of the vocal muscles. As we noted, the larynx is normally a very strong and durable organ, capable of extraordinary dexterity, but negative muscular conditioning, as with continuous attempts at mask singing, will, over time, result in vocal deterioration.
Persistent attempts at mask singing—and the high larynx that typically accompanies it—will eventually cause the partial collapse (constriction) of the pharyngeal cavity and uncontrolled tongue spasming. A spasmodic tongue impedes the flexibility of the pharynx, oral cavity, and soft palate, distorts well-tuned resonance production, and crushes vowel sounds configurations in the pharyngeal cavity. In this situation, high notes become thin and effortful, and low notes become muted, shallow, and breathy—in other words, resonance-deficient.
There is a direct connection between the vertical movement of the larynx and the actions of the tongue. In singing the vowel a at full volume in the lower register, for instance, the larynx should hold at a slightly lower than normal position in the throat, while the tongue should lie on the floor of the mouth with a groove defining its center from front to back. The movements of the larynx and the tongue change depending on the vowels and consonants being sung, the pitch on which they are sung, and the volume levels of the performance. Mask singing disturbs this process by promoting a consistently higher, unstable larynx, which interferes with strong, coordinated muscular action in the vocal machinery.
Finally, the soft palate also has a direct relation to the vertical movement of the larynx. As the larynx lowers, the soft palate rises and vice versa. This synchronized movement is also disturbed because of mask singing. As we can see, a single vocal technique rigorously employed has a powerful impact on singing. In the case of mask singing, the results are all too often hazardous. Fortunately, the effects of mask singing are not as damaging as they could be. Many singers who claim that they are mask singing are often misled by their own understanding, sensations, and intuitions, and are largely practicing normal larynx, pharynx, and oral cavity singing. On the other hand, a teacher who believes in the rigid application of so-called mask singing could cause serious muscular damage to the voices of his students. I studied under several teachers with this mindset, and the results were very unfortunate. After many of years of study, my voice became thin, shallow, and nasal; my voice also wobbled continuously throughout my increasingly shrinking range. I found out the hard way that being a good voice student could easily lead to becoming a very bad singer.
It was only after having taught many students whose training resembled my own that I saw unambiguous correlations between mask singing and the unhealthy vocal developments. Many of these students were genuinely perplexed about what was happening to their voices, and rightly so. Why should a student pay so dearly for following the instructions of her maestro? The victims of mask singing are everywhere to be found in the world of singing, and it is our hope that the loss of so many gifted singers will eventually come to an end. But this will only happen when the right information and great teachers join forces.