Tag Archives: how voice works

Singing – Speaking Lessons – How the Voice Works, & Why Singing & Speaking Are Not So Different

Here is an article about this topic.  Then I’ll give you my take on the matter and refer you to some videos etc. that will help in this area.

“While a whole book could be written on this, we are just going over the bare bones here. Lets start with the anatomy. You have two tubes at the back of your throat. One carries food and water to the stomach, the other, air to the lungs. The one which carries air to lungs is in front. At the top of the air passage is the larynx, and it is made of cartilage. Inside the larynx is where the vocal chords sit. Oddly enough, we are a bit like a combination of a wind and string instrument. The vocal chords are a pair of mucous membranes that vibrate at very fast varying speeds to produce our voices. The slower the vibration, the lower the sounds, and vice versa.

The vibration is like that of a string instrument, but we use wind to cause the vibration. A combination of airflow, chord positioning, and the use of our bodies as a resonating chamber determines our pitch, volume, and tone. It is the pressure behind the chords that builds up that causes them to open an close and varying speeds. A benchmark commonly used is the A above middle C. To make that sound, the chords open and close at 440 time a second. Many singers neglect to look at their speaking habits as source of problems for their singing. I urge you not to make this mistake. Since singing is merely speaking while holding a tone longer, and changing that tone, many of the mistakes you will make while singing are also made while speaking.”

That wasn’t much was it?

Breathing is essential to life whether we are sleeping,working, resting talking or singing.  Some folks huff and puff to get air even when not exerting themselves.  That can be due to ill health or overweight.  But assuming one is in good health and is at the proper weight and is not exercising or working or running, breathing should as natural for an adult as for a baby.  And should be easy and not strained while speaking or while singing.

I made a video about this very topic so let’s go there and watch it right now before we so on with this.  It’s about 8 minutes long.

Five Steps For Better Speaking                     http://www.youtube.com/watchv=VMA2TGrq2_E

The video gives some good exercises for improving your speaking and singing.  And microphones pick up everything even the clicking of a fan in my computer behind my speaking. Hope it doesn’t annoy you too much.

Then I have another video that tells about getting air for speaking and singing.  It’s about 4 minutes long.

Breath right to speak and sing right


And what  did the author of that article mean with A above middle C?    I couldn’t hit that with my voice even if I were hit on the foot with a sledge hammer.

Well back to the article and how to breath properly.

“The foundation of singing is correct breathing and breath support. Without these two things it is impossible to sustain a beautiful tone. The first step in gaining these two vital aspects of singing is to learn to sing with the right posture. The correct posture allows the singer to be as relaxed as possible, to take in as much air as possible, and to support the tone. The feet should be at inside-shoulder-width apart, and the weight should be on the balls of the feet. The knees should be bent to allow flexibility and to prevent passing out. The spine should hold its natural curve, and thus be a strong anchor for the core muscles. The sternum should be out, allowing the shoulders to rest on top of the rib cage like a yoke. The shoulders should not be pulled back, but simply rest on the rib cage. The arms and hands should be relaxed and at the side of the body, thus giving the rib cage adequate room to expand. A good rule of thumb is that the middle fingers should run along the seams of the pants (or where the seams would be). The head should be balanced and looking straight ahead. The jaw, tongue, and neck should be relaxed in order to let the tone freely flow.

After the correct posture is learned, the next step is breathing. The correct breathing should set the singer up for the correct support. There are three different types of breathing. The first is called clavicle breathing, which is the expansion of the upper chest and rising of the shoulders, and is primarily used to re-oxygenate the blood after strenuous activity. It is impossible to control the air flow during exhalation, and there is a lot of tension in the neck and throat which is bad for the tone. The second type of breathing is called thoracic, or costal, breathing, in which the whole rib cage expands using the muscles called the intercostals and is held open after inhalation. There is no use of abdominal musculature. Exhalation is not constant with this type because there is only one muscle of exhalation so there is no antagonistic struggle to create support. The third type of breathing is abdominal breathing. In this type the abdominal muscles and strong muscles of the back are used to push the abdominal viscera (organs) inward, pushing the diaphragm up. The muscles of inspiration are the antagonistic muscles during expiration, and thus are creating a balancing support. You are able to have little or no tension in the neck and throat with this type of breathing. Too much abdominal pressure creates tension in the larynx. The correct way to breathe for singing is to combine thoracic and abdominal breathing.

Support is the last aspect to worry about and should come from correct breathing. It is the act of constantly sustaining the vocalized sound with breath pressure. As the singer breathes in, the rib cage should expand laterally and the stomach muscles should relax and expand out as the diaphragm pushes all the internal organs out of the way. As the singer exhales, they must hold the ribs expanded to serve as an anchor for the diaphragm to resist the abdominal muscles pushing in. This antagonistic fight between the muscles of inhalation and the muscles of exhalation are what creates support.

To explain this further, we need to know about the three postures of respiration. The first is the respiratory posture, which is used for normal breathing. In this posture the principle muscles of inhalation contract and the principle muscles of exhalation relax in order to inhale. The opposite happens to exhale. In this posture the larynx is open and relaxed. The second posture is the isometric posture, which is used for “fight or flight” situations. Both groups of muscles are tight and contracted, and the larynx is tight and closed. The third posture is the pelvic pressure posture which is the same as isometric, except there is downward force. This is used to excrete waste or give birth. The correct posture of respiration for singing combines roughly 90% respiratory posture and 10% isometric posture. That 10% isometric posture is what creates enough support for steady breath pressure and vocal tone, without being too much as to make the larynx tight and to constrict the tone.”

Two examples of unstrained singing are Deanna Durbin of movie fame in the 30s and 40s and Andrea Bocelli of today. Let’s go look at them do some of that.   The Lady first:

And now Andrea Bocelli as introduced by David Foster.


See what i mean?   Remember to breath right and remember singing is just sustained speaking.

Was any of this worth any thing to you? Let me know.

Catch you next time.


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