The voice is the product of many component parts working together, ideally in harmony. When you speak or sing, although the sound produced comes from the 2 chords vibrating together, this would not happen without the power source of air flowing through them.
Furthermore, the sound produced by this power source and vibrating chord-action can be manipulated and changed in so many different ways by our resonators ie: our tongue, our jaw, our soft palate.
Do you ever notice how different your voice sounds with a blocked nose? Or have you noticed the difference in the way someone talks due to their tongue piercing? These resonators mould our sound too, and can hugely affect the overall quality and detail of a voice.
When creating a sound, just remember it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 ….
1. Power Source
You must have heard the phrase ‘she has a set of lungs on her!’ or ‘what a set of pipes!’, especially if a singer has just delivered a big, belty, high volume and high intensity number on stage.
The irony of this is that when it comes to high-power vocals, it’s less about the quantity of air, and more about air pressure. Try hollering a taxi and see how much breath you take before hand. Not a lot, right?
A singer’s understanding about how to use their breath and air is more important than taking in as much as possible or trying to get a big breath every time ie: ‘tanking’. It’s about planning, effort levels, release between phrases and strengthening the muscles which support your breathing capacity so you have volume, control and power on tap.
2. Vibratory Source
Now we know how important the power source is (air), we need to understand what it is fueling….ie: the larynx!
This delicate, hazelnut-sized lump in our throat has a magnificent ability to grow, stretch and tilt, using the air which powers it to great effect. The vocal chords are inside the larynx – two little, slippery folds which undulate together when air passed through them as a result of the Bernoulli Effect.
It’s like when a shower curtain sticks to your leg when the water goes on – the rush of energy (water flow) acts as a magnet for the curtain in the same way that the rush of energy (air) draws the two chords together to create sound.
The thinner and thicker your chords are naturally will depends on your genetics, but also your ability to control, stretch and tilt them, all of which can be learned in time. Fun fact – singers chords can vibrate up to 1000 times per second!
Your ‘vocal tract’ moulds, shapes and crafts the sound produced from our power source and chords. Often pupils complain of feeling or sounding very ‘nasal’ in their speaking voice. Others often present a lot of jaw tension, especially when they are nervous or trying to sing higher notes.
These are example of problems caused by this final component of vocal production. The jaw, the nose, the mouth shape, the tongue, your pharynx (your throat), the soft palate, even your teeth all get involved to varying degrees.
Learning to control these and place them differently in order to achieve certain timbres can take your vocal control up another notch, and provide the detail and personality many crave for their voice.