Many beginner vocalists often assume that singing ‘simply happens’, but there are actually a lot of complex mechanisms and different parts of the body involved to produce that stunning singing voice. It’s easier to understand those mechanisms in other instruments, but, as vocalists, our instruments are partly hidden inside our bodies.
Learning the anatomy of the singing voice helps us engage those crucial parts of the body and improve our vocals. You will also be able to look after your voice better and implement healthier techniques and lifestyle choices to support your singing voice. So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at how we produce sound.
Breathing is something we do naturally, without even thinking. Your singing voice starts with your breath. When you begin singing lessons for adults, you will learn to maximise your breath and breathe like a vocalist. This means, breathing into your lower lungs, expanding your stomach and exhaling as you flatten the tummy. All the while keeping your chest and shoulders still. But what actually happens when we do this? As you inhale, your diaphragm will contract and cause the lungs to fill up with air and expand. With each exhale, the diaphragm will relax, causing the lungs to flatten and air will be pushed out of them.
The larynx or your voice box is responsible for protecting the airways and it also prevents food from entering into the lungs. The larynx rests in your neck and its intrinsic muscles are responsible for altering the vocal cords. They manipulate the position, shape and tension by spreading the cords apart, bringing them closer together or stretching out their length.
The Vocal Folds
Where does the air go after it leaves our lungs? Well, it gets forced out through the trachea, where it passes through the vocal folds or, as many like to call them, vocal cords. Your vocal folds stay closed until enough air builds up to escape through. As you exhale and run out of breath, they close once again. Depending on your anatomy and whether you’re male or female, these tiny folds can vibrate at the speed of 110 to over 200 cycles per second. The faster they vibrate, the higher your voice. A common misconception is that the vocal cords vibrate against each other, but this isn’t quite the case. Sound is instead created by pressure changes as the air passes through vocal folds.
So, What Affects Your Tone?
We often reiterate that everyone’s vocal tone is shaped by their anatomy and is as unique as a fingerprint. It’s important for students who embark on singing lessons for adult beginners to embrace their unique voice, instead of trying to copy other vocalists. Your sound is shaped by many different components and you are also able to manipulate some of them for a better tone. Vocal cords on their own only produce a buzzing vibration sound. The tongue position, palate, pharynx, chest, sinus, nasal and oral cavities will act as resonators for your voice and are responsible for the quality of tone. Try finding the placement of your voice by singing while smiling inwardly. You may notice the following:
- Your chest voice will resonate upper chest cavity and lower pharynx, hence the name of this vocal range
- The middle pharynx, soft palate and oral cavity will also continue resonating your chest voice. This is where the lower notes of your head voice will sit and likely where your voice will be ‘mixing’ between head and chest
- The upper pharynx, teeth/lips and the nasal cavity is where you will find that powerful, belting head voice
- Moving onto your sinus cavities, this is where you will resonate the highest notes in the top range of your vocals
Don’t worry, if you don’t notice these vibrations to begin with! As you progress through your lessons, you will become more in tune with your body and learn to control your singing voice.
Singing From the Diaphragm? It Can Be Quite the Workout…
You may not consider singing to be a workout, but there are actually a lot of muscles involved to support a strong singing voice that comes from your diaphragm. Your intercostal muscles, which are found between the ribs can get quite the workout when you breathe and sing through your diaphragm. It can take a while to get to grips with isolating those muscles if you’re not used to using them. Some beginners who start singing lessons for adults may even experience some muscle fatigue to begin with. Your abdominal and lower back muscles also play a crucial role in smoother transitions, control and power of your voice.
Why Is This Important?
There is certainly more to the anatomy of the singing voice, however, knowing these basics alone will help you as you progress through your singing lessons for adults. You will learn to isolate certain muscles in your body for a stronger sound. You will also notice different parts of your body engaging as you move through your vocal range. Vocalists of any level should be aware of the anatomy of the singing voice to prevent damage or injury, too. By learning and developing alongside a qualified vocal coach, you will become mindful of using the correct technique and what that should feel like.
Other Ways to Take Care of The Anatomy of The Singing Voice
Aside from regular vocal training and the anatomical characteristics that are unique to you, there are more ways to take care of your vocals. Implementing healthy lifestyle habits like not smoking, staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest will contribute to better vocal quality. As we mentioned before, there are a lot of muscles in your back and abdomen that are used while singing. Staying in good shape and training your core strength and posture can also provide that strong support necessary for your voice to perform at its best.
Do You Want to Take Your Voice to The Next Level?
At London Singing Institute, we specialise in helping adults unlock their vocal potential through tried and tested methods and an individual approach. We teach a wide range of genres from classical to rock, pop, jazz, musical theatre and more. Our experienced team of coaches are passionate about providing a supportive, judgment-free environment for our students to thrive and achieve the singing voice they’ve always dreamed of. Get in touch today to find out more about one to one and group lessons in Central London or online!
Tags: What happens when we sing
, Singing advice
, Vocal science