February 21, 2024

About the Author: Urpi

Urpi teaches vocals at S&C singing in Dubai and loves helping her students excel and become the best singers they can be!

When people enrol in singing lessons, it obviously is because they want to learn to sing correctly. In general, the principal goal, regardless of the student’s level of training, is to master their voice and have total and complete control of it.

In this article, we will talk about how the voice is emitted!

Nonetheless, when they are asked what happens in the body and specifically in the voice when we are singing, the vast majority answer genuinely that they have no idea. Most of them are absolutely unaware of what is happening.

So, the triggering question comes:

What do you want to have control over if you don`t know how it works?

Sure, you want to have control of your voice, as mentioned at the beginning, but what aspect of your voice do you want to control?

First of all, let`s start by asking: How is the voice emitted? Don`t you think?…and here is when curiosity arises.

Breathing process illustration

The Fuel of Singing

In singing, the responsible for the production and emission of the voice is the Vocal System, which is a set of organs, muscles, ligaments, bones and cartilage that, when working synchronized, create the sound of your voice.

The Vocal System primarily consists of the respiratory apparatus, which includes the nostrils, windpipe, lungs, bronchi, diaphragm, ribs, intercostal muscles, and abdominals. This system operates with one essential element, which is the fuel for singing: air.

In this first stage of the process of voice production and emission, when we inhale the air enters through the nostrils, it should be added that to sing properly it is recommended to inhale through the nose most of the time as in this way the air begin to be warmed.

The air travels through the windpipe, the diaphragm contracts and descends, the expansion of the rib cage with the intercostals and abdominals relaxed occurs, and the air passes through the bronchi and enters the lungs.

On the other hand, when we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and ascends, allowing the air to leave the lungs and pass through the bronchi and windpipe until it reaches the larynx.

Vocal cords illustration

Where the Magic Happens in Singing

The air coming out from the lungs without any interaction is simply air, but when along its journey it finds structures to interact with, that is when a sound is produced.

In this way, the Vocal System is also conformed by the Speaker Apparatus, where the second stage of voice production and emission takes place. The Speaker Apparatus is mainly composed of the larynx, glottis, vocal cords, pharynx, nasal cavity and oral cavity, and its principal element is where the magic happens, where the vibration of the air occurs and becomes a sound, the vocal cords.

When the air reaches the larynx, it arrives to the glottis, where the vocal cords are located.

So, if the vocal cords open and are collected at the sides, the air passes freely without pressure, making us just breathe.

On the contrary, if they come together and there is certain compression, the air passes between them, initiating a very rapid vibration movement, making it possible for the air to turn into a sound with a specific timbre or colour.

What’s more, this vibration is accompanied by frequency, which refers to the speed at which the vocal cords vibrate when producing sounds.

This vibration speed or frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) and determines the tone of our voice.

The faster the vocal cords vibrate, the higher the pitch of our voice will be and vice versa. Once the air vibrates, it arrives at the pharynx, where it starts to resonate and passes through the nasal cavity until it reaches the oral cavity, where the sound is amplified and modulated.

Throat anatomy illustration

Sound Design in Singing

Once the air interacts with the vocal cords and becomes a sound reaching the oral cavity, the process continues until it is finally emitted. the ones responsible for the third step in the Vocal System are the Articulation Components, which are in charge of the final sound design in singing.

These include the palate with the soft palate, tongue, teeth and lips, and although all these components are relevant, the fundamental element is the tongue if it is not placed correctly and with the necessary relaxation and compression, the sound can be unintelligible, with an unclear quality, powerless and blocked without being freely emitted.

When the sound reaches the oral cavity, its shape begins in the soft palate, then the tongue modulates the sound, the teeth help to determine the tone of voice and pronunciation, and it is finally emitted through the lips. It should also be added that certain sounds are finally emitted through the nose, as is the case of humming for example.

All in all, having a global knowledge of how the voice works benefits singers in many aspects, since if at some point they do not have the necessary technique for an exercise, they know how to identify what is happening in their bodies and what is necessary to vary, they will be able to perform the exercise.

If students solely concentrate on technically mastering what the vocal coach or singing teacher instructs, they may find themselves at a loss when their techniques fail to work, simply because they lack an understanding of the underlying principles of how the voice is emitted!

Logically, we can not have control of every component of the Vocal System. Still, we indeed can adjust how we breathe, how much air we inhale, how we manage the airflow, control the core support, and train the vocal cords.

Hence, these muscles are flexible and agile to vibrate fast and have high frequencies for high notes. We can adjust the muscle coordination of the larynx, pharynx, nasal and oral cavities, such as the soft palate, to have good resonance and clear sounds. Finally, we can adjust the tongue and lips to achieve a well-articulated sound.

Therefore, knowledge of the Vocal System and how the voice is emitted is, without a shadow of a doubt, essential and helpful for singing.

Being curious about your own voice certainly can do wonders for you, and at S&C Music, we gladly share this valuable information with you.

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