Alright, so before you begin this journey on building a bulletproof voice… it’s important to understand how the voice works. Where does the sound come from and what causes the sound?
This video will cover some of the basics of vocal anatomy, because when you understand how your voice works, you begin to see the relevance of each vocal exercise and and vocal workout and how they are designed and intended to grow and strengthen your voice like a muscle. Because your voice is a muscle. It can be grown and it can be strengthened.
There are two key factors in the production of sound from a voice:
- Vocal Cord Vibration
Let’s start with the first factor: Vocal cord vibration.
The vocal cords are a pair of flexible shelves of tissue (or folds) that stretch across the top of the trachea housed in your larynx. If you want to find your larynx, place your finger on your chin, press inward, and slide down the neck until you feel a “V-Shape” in the neck. That’s your larynx. That’s where your vocal cords are living. When we breathe, or exhale to be exact, the breath from our lungs up and then works in conjunction with our vocal cords to create sound. How fast do they vibrate? The answer: from 100 to 1000X per second depending on the pitch of the sound we make. To put that in perspective… that is 10X as fast as the average flapping of a hummingbird’s wings per second. Very fast! When the vocal folds come together, they are set into vibration by the passing airstream. So why is this important to know? Inability of the vocal folds to close sufficiently will hinder the necessary vibration for your voice to produce sound.
This is why vocal nodules are especially problematic. Nodules, as defined by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association are simply “growths that form on the vocal folds”. When you have a blister-like bump on one of your vocal folds, your cords will not be able to close correctly resulting in:
- Vocal fatigue
- Loss of vocal range
- Chronic hoarseness
- Feeling like you have a “lump in your throat”
… and the problem can compound upon itself quickly if you don’t take some serious rest your voice and let it recover.
Side note: if you suspect you have a nodule, you’ll want to get it checked out by an ENT. They’ll be able to identify the problem quickly and give you proper treatment. Often times the best treatment is strict vocal rest.
However, it’s crucial to identify the root cause - sometimes it’s because we screamed our heads off at a sporting event the night before. But in other cases, it can be a result of poor singing technique. And if this is the case, it will happen again and again until the technique is corrected.
But that’s why you’re here! I’ve been the victim of nodules in the past - but once I started training my voice with these methods on a regular basis, truly making it part of my daily routine to keep my voice in shape, I haven’t gotten nodules and I haven’t lost my voice ever since.
… But do try to be careful at those sporting events.
So, there was your first factor in producing sound: vocal cord vibration. It’s gotta happen and it’s gotten happen in a healthy, balanced way.
The SECOND factor in how your voice produces sound in RESONANCE.
Resonance is how the tone is modified and amplified as it travels through the corridors, hallways, and spaces (in your head and body) before it leaves your mouth. There are multiple areas in the body that may be listed as resonators… but I’ll group certain areas together to identify the TWO MAIN vocal resonators.
That is your CHEST RESONATOR and your HEAD RESONATOR.
I’m not talking about vocal registers just yet - you may have heard terms like “Chest Voice” and “Head Voice” - but rather, I’m just calling attention to the parts of the body where the voice resonates.
The chest resonator is the biggest resonator we have and it’s where we speak. As I’m talking right now, if I place my hand on my chest, I feel vibration. That is the sound resonating throughout the chest cavity.
Now, when we sing, we don’t really want to push all the sound into the chest resonator, because the sound will be trapped as we ascend in pitch. It puts a lot of strain on our throat and we won’t be able to ascend through the middle range of our voice.
Our aim should be to send the sound up behind the soft palate and into the head space which is the head resonator (refer to example in video)
And there is a blend of head and chest happening. The sound is resonating in the chest and head. You could call this MIXED VOICE by definition. However, usually when people refer to mixed voice, they are referring to the middle voice where the resonance is mostly SPLIT down the middle.
In general, the mixed voice is like a recipe:
3 parts chest voice, 1 part head voice.
2 part chest voice, 2 part head voice.
And with good technique, the resonance should shift from our chest space to our head space as we ascend in pitch.
Keep this in mind: ONE OF THE PRIMARY GOALS OF ALL VOCAL TRAINING IS TO CONNECT YOUR CHEST VOICE TO YOUR HEAD VOICE WITHOUT A BREAK IN BETWEEN.
This lesson has been just a fly over of how the voice works. I know I threw out some elusive terms like mixed voice and you might still have questions on how to find your own mixed voice… Don’t worry! We’re going to cover more below.