Vocal Cords: The Amazing Science Behind Science

Understanding How Vocal Cords Work When Singing

Understand the science behind the vocal cords of amazing singer such as Whitney Houston and many more.

How exactly does singing work? Is there a technique to it? Is there a physiological aspect to it? Or does a person simply open his or her mouth and proceed to sing? Is it strictly based off talent? What parts of your body actually produces the ability to sing? Have you ever wondered any of these questions? Some people have. However, most people don’t think nothing of it. They just enjoy the singing they’re listening to. If they are a pop or r&b singer themselves a lot of times they just sing. They’re not focused on how their vocal cords work or the science behind singing. Yet there are some who still wonder how this beautiful talent happens behind the scene. Like you may have guess yes it mainly revolves around the vocal cords. But how does the vocal cords actually work to produce singing. Here’s a simple yet informative explanation on the vocal cords and the science of singing.

What are the vocal cords?

I’m sure you heard of the phrase “vocal cords” before. People use it all the time, not just singers. But do you really know what they are and how they work. Most importantly do you know how they produce sound? Vocal cords are folds of tissue in the throat that sits in the larynx and are designed to create sound through vocalization. They are made up of 3 different parts:

Vocal cords are 2 small twin, horizontal lines that sit in your larynx.

How do the vocal cords work?

Now you know what vocal cords are and what all about the vocal cords location. But exactly how do vocal cords work. Sure they control vocalization and any sound that comes out of the mouth. But this doesn’t explain the actual science of how the vocal cords work. The vocal cords work depending on if and how much air passes through them. When you open your mouth to breathe you inhale. Once you inhale you fill your lungs with air. The vocal cords then begin to vibrate based on the air flow that’s being passed through them. This air comes from the lungs that were filled when you inhaled. Once they vibrate due to the air that was passed in  they produce a sound. This goes for speaking and singing. This is exactly how vocal cords work. As you breathe to inhale the air the vocal cords are open. At this point no sound is being produced. It’s once you exhale and release the air that sound is produced. While the sound is coming out your vocal cords are vibrating.

How do vocal cords work when singing?

Here’s a visual of how the vocal cords vibrate, open and close when singing. When you breathe (inhale) they are open. When you exhale to sing they close (or sometimes get extremely close together).

With singing the vocal cords work the same way. It’s the same process for when you talk. The only difference is you have to focus more on your breathing technique. You also have to make sure you have enough air filled in your lungs. This is because the root of singing is breathing from your stomach. How the voice works when singing starts at breathing from your stomach. Remember the proper way to breathe when singing is to fill your lungs with air when you inhale. This means your stomach should grow or look fuller. Then as you exhale release the air. This means you stomach should gradually get smaller. By the time your done singing your phrase your stomach should be flat. You simply repeat this process over and over again. As you’re inhaling and exhaling the correct way when singing the air is passing through your vocal cords. Your vocal cords then vibrate depending on how much air is being exhaled. This causes your vocal cords to produce your amazing voice. When you’re in your lower register (chest voice) your vocal cords are short and thick. What allows them to change different pitches within your chest voice are your TA muscles (thyroarytenoid muscles). When singing in your higher register your vocal cords become longer and thinner. During this time your voice ligament increases in tension.  Another important part to remember about the science of the vocal cords when singing is that they vibrate at a certain frequency depending on how much and how fast air passes between them. As the air passes through them they grow apart, then immediately close back this is what actually gives them their vibrations. If they’re closed too much this gives your voice a straining, hard sound. If they’re not closed enough this gives your voice a weak sound and breathy tone.

What do the vocal cords look like?

Believe it or not the vocal cords are not large at all. They’re actually small and delicate. It’s amazing how much force they can produce. Many may picture them to be large or grand in size. The reality is the vocal cords are about the size of a thumbnail and the width of a dime. Some vocal cords may be slightly smaller or larger than others. But overall they’re not big at all. However, the size of your particular vocal cords does play a part in the tone of your natural voice. If you have ever wondered what the vocal cords look like, they are small twin size mucous lines that sit horizontally across the larynx. They are controlled by the vagus nerve.  They’re also very soft, which is why it’s very important not to put a lot of strain on them. Below is an actual vocal cord diagram.

The perfect diagram of how the vocal cords work when opened and closed and how it connects with singing.

Now that you know all about the vocal cords and how they work this only enhances your career as a vocalist/ singer. It gives you an even greater advantage. It helps make your a master in your field. The more you know about the voice, the more you can perfect your art. You now can understand singing on a deeper level. Anything you learn the science to will only advance you on a higher level. Be sure to take this newfound knowledge of the vocal cords and how the voice works and apply it to your skills as a singer.

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