How Voice Works: Anatomy and Physiology of Voice

How Voice Works: Anatomy and Physiology of Voice


Hello everyone! This is me – Katarina from tips.how2improvesinging.com. Today I want to talk about a topic that many
new singers wonder about. I want to show you how voice works. Let’s start. Why is it important for singers to know how
voice works? Well, I believe that it can help them understand
better what is going on inside their body when they sing. If you know your body, you can improve your
vocal technique and maintain vocal health. It isn’t necessary to memorize all the specific
terms and functions of the vocal anatomy. My goal here is to give you some understanding. Also basic knowledge of terminology, like
diaphragm, resonance, and soft palate, improves communication with vocal teachers. Let’s start with breathing. I don’t need to tell you that coordinated
breath support is essential for good singing. Well, I just did. Here are the lungs and here is the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle dividing
the torso into the chest cavity and the abdomen. Air enters the lungs through the trachea,
otherwise known as the windpipe. During inhalation, the ribcage moves out and sideways and the diaphragm descends. Moves down. The lungs are stretched and air is drawn into
the lungs. During exhalation, the lungs are compressed
and the air is pushed out because the ribcage and the diaphragm return to their relaxed
position. Let’s move on to the larynx, also known
as the voice box. The larynx sits on top of the windpipe. The larynx plays a role in the protection
of the windpipe and in the production of sound. This organ in your neck does not look like
much in this picture. However, it is a complex structure that houses
the vocal folds, also known as vocal cords. Let’s finish this picture with the rest
of the vocal tract: pharynx, mouth, tongue and nasal cavity, but we’ll get back
to these later. Here is a closer look at the same structures. The larynx is made of cartilages, joints,
ligaments and muscles. The larynx is made of 9 cartilages in total,
three of them are in pairs and three are unpaired. Here in the picture, I drew only the biggest
one, which has a lump or protrusion in the front, you may know it as the Adam’s
apple. The cartilages form a skeleton of the larynx
that is connected to other structures of the head and neck through muscles. Right above the larynx is the pharynx. This is your throat situated right behind the mouth and nasal cavity. The pharynx is a part of your vocal tract
that is shaped during singing to produce an optimal sound. The sound that is made in the larynx travels
through the vocal tract and is amplified based on the position of the tongue, lips, mouth,
resonance of the nasal cavity and finally the shape of the pharynx. The buzz created in the larynx resonates or
vibrates in all these body parts, which we call resonators. Let’s have a look inside your mouth. No, you cannot see the larynx when you open
your mouth. But you can see other structures that are
important for singers. You recognise a tongue and teeth. You can also see a hard palate, soft palate
and uvula that make up the roof of your mouth. You can actually see a small part of your
pharynx, right behind your oral cavity, your mouth. Now, let’s have a look at the larynx from
up above. To see your own larynx, you need to visit
a specialist who will use a viewing instrument called a scope. On the front part of the larynx is the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a leaf-shaped flap attached
to the root of the tongue and the cartilage of the larynx. During breathing, the epiglottis points up
so that air enters and exits the windpipe and the lungs freely. During swallowing, the epiglottis moves back
and covers the entrance to the larynx to prevent food from entering the larynx and the lungs. Next, you see a triangular opening that is
narrow in front and wide in the back. This opening is called the glottis. The opening continues to the windpipe. Air passes through this opening when we breathe or vocalize, make sound. The vocal cords extend from the front to the
backside of the biggest laryngeal cartilage. Here, the vocal cords are apart to let air
pass during breathing. Their outer edges are attached to muscles
in the larynx and do not move or vibrate. Their inner edges are free to vibrate. This picture shows the vocal cords together. We see the same structures: the epiglottis, the laryngeal cartilages and the vocal cords. The vocal cords close when we speak or sing. To bring the vocal cords together, you engage
the deep muscles of the larynx that influence not only the position but also the shape and
tension of the vocal cords, for example the deep muscles make the vocal cords loose, bring
them together or spread them apart. Let’s continue looking at the larynx. This is a cross section of the larynx: your
voice box cut in half vertically viewed from front. There are two pairs of folds: false vocal
folds and true vocal folds, otherwise known as vocal cords. The false vocal folds are located above the
true vocal folds. The false vocal folds are covered with mucosal
lining but they do not have muscles. They vibrate a little bit during singing,
especially during vibrato singing. They play a role in resonance but they do
not produce sound. The false vocal folds are important when swallowing
because they help create closure to prevent food from entering the windpipe. Vocal folds is a better name for vocal
cords. Most teachers and singers use these two terms
interchangeably. The folds are not strings like guitar strings that vibrate when plucked so the word cord may be misleading. In reality, they are folds of tissue as seen
in this picture. The true vocal folds have three layers: outermost or superficial layer is mucosa (a type of tissue that lines surfaces of cavities in
our bodies). This is a special gel-like tissue that vibrates
during sound production. It is really just the outermost part of the
vocal folds that vibrates during phonation. The deep layer is made of a muscle tissue. This muscle can contract, which shortens the
vocal folds. Between these two layers is an intermediate
layer that consists of a vocal ligament. Sound is generated in the larynx, right here
between the two vocal folds. This is where we change pitch and volume. As I said before, during breathing the vocal
folds are open and the air travels to the lungs. Just before we speak or sing, the folds come
together, which causes air pressure to build up underneath the folds, called subglottic
pressure. As the subglottic pressure increases, the
vocal folds are pushed apart. Air rushes through the opening between the
vocal folds, which causes the outermost mucosal layer to vibrate. The tension, the shape and the length of the
vocal folds determine the pitch of the voice. Are we done yet? Yes. No! There is so much more to know about the larynx,
the vocal mechanism, the muscles and phonation. Just kidding. Let’s stop here for now. This is me again – Katarina. And this is my website, How 2 improve singing with Katarina, where you will find more information and tips about singing, vocal
health and techniques and everything that an aspiring singer needs. See you then. Bye, everyone!

One Reply to “How Voice Works: Anatomy and Physiology of Voice”

  1. Thank you for watching! Do you have more questions? I bet you do. Just ask and I will do my best to answer them.

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