Sex toy gives singers an extra octave
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Talk about good vibrations.
A University of Alberta voice coach has been using sex toys to massage the throats of actors and singers and is getting results.
“I know it’s a bit different … I know there’s a giggle factor, but it works,” says David Ley, a professor in the school’s drama department. “It relaxes tension in the larynx … it improves range and projection.”
He makes it clear he’s not a physician or therapist.
“My first advice for a person (with voice or throat issues) would be to go to a doctor,” he says. “What I’mtrying to do is to help the person hit that high note or harness their emotional energy.”
He spent last fall coaching actors at the Stratford Festival with all the expected exercises and drills, but surprised everyone when he pulled out a small purple “marital aid.”
“With a straight face he announced to me he wanted to use it on the actors,” says Janine Pearson, the festival’s head of voice and coaching. “Of course, he was trying to get a reaction … and he did.”
Not just anyone could come to Stratford with such a suggestion, she says, but Ley is “so highly regarded and professional” he was trusted.
Toronto Actor Sara Farb, who is currently in three productions at Stratford, swears by the device and says she bought one online moments after being shown how it worked by Ley. “It was almost immediate,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Last fall she was in an Edmonton production of Next to Normal, a rock-and-roll musical, and was hard on her voice.
“The temperature was dropping and I had a cat I may have been allergic to,” she says. “I was definitely having voice issues.”
She said she heard about the professor’s work, booked an appointment and has been happy with the result.
Ley says the science has always been around (massage releases tension) but that many people are uncomfortable having their throats manipulated by a therapist or even doing it themselves.
He investigated various massage machines — which he found too awkward — before his search finally ended at the local sex shop.
“I was in the middle of the store testing it on the throat of a friend,” he says with a laugh. “The girl behind the counter was intrigued but she listened to every word I had to say about voice and coaching. I’m sure she’s heard it all.”
The vibrator doesn’t look like what many might imagine — it’s the size of a computer mouse. With a frequency between 100 and 120, it’s pretty close to the range of the human voice.
Ley adds that although the use of a small vibrator to ease the tension in a larynx seems obvious, he can’t find the practice anywhere in his research.
He’s been getting plenty of media attention from around the world — as would be expected — but he says he’s just happy his work is being taken seriously.
He will be speaking on his findings at the Voice Foundation Symposium in Philadelphia this June.