How to maintain an open larynx 

when full of air: 97% + 3% Exercise

Your larynx may unconsciously close when you are full of breath. The 97% + 3% exercise is one of your most efficient tools to learn how to maintain an open throat when you are full of air pressure.

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97 + 3 Explanation and Demonstration (6:12)

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The Top of the Breath is the most common place within the breath cycle where we unconsciously close our throats (larynx).

Here, before we even make a sound, we may try to control or manage the building pressure in the body by clamping the air off at the larynx.

The closing action of the larynx is so habitual that we don’t often even notice the inward motion.

It is critical to become aware of this small closing motion. Remember, your vocal cords only stretch and contract to change the pitch. They do not control the rate or volume of your breathing.

The vocal folds have to be free to stretch and contract to make high and low pitches.

They can’t stretch or vibrate to make sound if they are also being used to control the breath.

Pressure Builds at the Top of the Breath

We tend to close our throats when we become uncomfortable with greater air pressure. And, it happens so quickly, so invisibly, that we often don’t even notice.

The Top of the Breath is one of the most common places in the breathing cycle where we tend to unconsciously close our throats.

The pressure builds when we contain more air and the old habits of throat tension return before we notice.

Pressure Constant

Pressure Constant: To maintain a consistent volume of breath inside the body. Air flow moves at a steady rate with no sudden changes of speed.

In order for your resonating spaces to remain open to receive and reverberate the sound waves, air pressure inside your body needs to remain at constant level of air pressure, or, "Breath Support."

97% + 3% Exercise

The "97% + 3%" exercise is one of the most helpful exercises to help us learn to keep our throat and larynx open at the top of the breath. This exercise has many applications, so take your time and let it teach you how your body works.

There are three great uses for this exercise:

  • How to sustain the open larynx when you are full of breath pressure.
  • How to contain more air pressure. 

  • How to determine whether the breath is still.

97 + 3 Exercise only (5:37)

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1. Find your "home" rested position. 

2. Establish a fluid, 360º breathing cycle in and out. (No jerks or twitches)

3. Establish a comfortably full, consistent breathing volume. 

Step One: 100% Comfortable Full

  • Establish a comfortable 100% full air capacity.
  • Able to comfortably still, at the top of the breath with your throat open.

Step Two: Slowly release 3% of your air

  • Slowly and silently release 3% of your air. (Three per cent of 100% is very little air. )

Step Three: Observe the 97% capacity of your breath cushion

It’s quite common to gradually deflate below the 97% with this exercise. One of the purposes for this exercise is to learn how to repeat a consistent breathing pattern.

  • Slowly release 3% of your air to 97% capacity. 
  • Observe the sensation of 97%  comfortably full breath level/volume. 
  • In this exercise, you will consistently deflate to this limited volume.

Step Four: Return to 100% - Comfortable Full

  • Return to the 100% with each inhale. 
  • Try not to exceed 100%.

Step Five: Circle the top 3% of your air out and in

1. Reestablish your 100% comfortable full capacity.

2. Circle the top 3% of your air in and out without decreasing the lower 97% of your breath cushion.


  • Head and shoulders don't move with the breath motion.
  • Jaw hangs in its dropped position.
  • Tongue remains on the floor of your mouth.
  • Larynx is relaxed and open, breath is silent!

We, "Run out of Breath," when we don't inhale to a consistent level of fullness with each inhale.

Instead, we have a tendency to gradually deflate over time.

The 97% + 3% exercise teaches our breathing body to stretch and contain a consistent (constant) level of air pressure.

Breathe Freely - Non Coached Breathing

Breathe in and out in any way the feels comfortable to you until you feel clear, oxygenated and can easily return to "Comfortably Full."

There are times in breath and voice work when you may feel light-headed and overwhelmed. This means your body is adjusting.

You will revisit this light-headed sensation when your voice expands, so it's best to learn how to use this signal from the outset of your training.

If, at any time during these lessons you feel fuzzy headed, too full or out of breath:

1. Pause the lesson and breathe at your own pace until your body adjusts to your new breathing capacity.

2. Ground. Feel the soles of your feet. Draw the breath UP through the soles of your feet, through the legs, hips and to the lungs. 


  • BREATH CUSHION/BREATH SUPPORT - Your vocal sound is made in the upper ⅓ of your body, the vocal core. The lower ⅔ of your body supports the actions in the vocal core. The air pressure builds in the lower part of your body and creates a cushion of “breath support” for your voice.
  • BREATHE FREELY - Non-coached breathing at a comfortable size and pace for the student.
  • COMFORTABLE FULL - Inhale to a comfortable level of breath with ease. You can't see your breath but you can feel a sensation of the size of your capacity. You should be able to return to this volume consistently without stress or gradually deflating. 
  • PRESSURE CONSTANT - To maintain a consistent volume of breath inside of the body. Air flow moves at a steady rate with no sudden changes of speed. 
  • 97 + 3 EXERCISE - Establish a comfortable full level of breath volume. Release 3% of your air and then return to 100% comfortable full level. Circle the top 3% of air only while maintaining 97% of air underneath. The larynx remains at rest. The breath is silent and the head doesn't move with the breath.
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