Physiology: Know Your Body, Know Your Voice
Knowing how your voice works will help you know how to use it properly without getting a sore throat or vocal fatigue.
Welcome! It’s so great to have you on the journey of implementing some quick tips to get you singing like the star that you are.
We are going to begin this first lesson by studying voice physiology. Don’t worry—it’s a simple version that will get you great results! When you know how your body works, you will use it more efficiently. Most people who are singing and experiencing tension or vocal difficulty don’t know how their voice produces notes essential for good singing.
If you can understand some simple principles, you are more likely to use your voice correctly. This knowledge will help you address any vocal problems and more easily rectify them.
I have taught many students who, as soon as they understand the physiology of the voice, immediately see an improvement in their singing. I believe the same can happen for you too.
A Quick Overview
Your trachea, which is also called your windpipe, is where the air passes through before it reaches your vocal folds.
The pharynx is the top of your throat and nasal passages (oral and nasal). The pharynx, soft palate, and nasal cavity are used simultaneously to enhance sound.
The larynx (below your pharynx) is made up of soft cartilage and sits on top of your windpipe.
The epiglottis (above your trachea) opens and closes when you are swallowing or eating.
Your tongue and mouth produce vowels.
The lips, teeth, and tongue create consonants.
Your vocal folds
The vocal folds produce sound. They sit in the center of your larynx and are long, smoothly rounded bands of muscle and fibrous tissue.
The vocal folds sit on top of your windpipe. When you sing or speak, air passes through the windpipe and the vocal folds, causing them to vibrate and produce sound. They are about the thickness of two pieces of spaghetti and open when breathing. Sound is produced when they come together and vibrate. This action of creating sound is called “phonation.”
Now let’s talk briefly about your breathing anatomy.
Breathing correctly determines how you produce your sound.
Your ribcage is the casing around your lungs.
The muscles between the ribs are called “intercostal muscles.”
The diaphragm is a wide, flat muscle that is dome-shaped when at rest. When the diaphragm contracts, it shortens from both sides. This causes it to flatten and come down, opening the lungs.
When you breathe out, your diaphragm returns to its original domed position. The lungs relax, and air leaves through the windpipe.
Correct breathing isn’t just about the sound; it’s also about developing the muscles surrounding the breathing apparatus.
Ok, are you still with me? That was a quick lesson! You can probably see that understanding the physiology of the voice and knowing the correct breathing technique is very important to singing well. We will cover this more thoroughly in Lesson 3.
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