How Is Sound Produced?
Sound is produced by the vocal folds which are two matched folds of tissue positioned on the right and left sides of your larynx. Your larynx is the “Bump” you can see and feel in the lower part of your neck. When the vocal chords are at rest they form a “V” shape.
When inhaling they expand to allow air in. They remain open when exhaling.
When making sound, the chords are drawn together. Pressurized air flows up from your lungs creating a ripple effect on the chords that travels through your vocal tract (throat) and out through your mouth.
In my article on breathing I discussed the use of the silent breath. The way you breathe has an impact on your vocal chords. If you take a loud audible breath, the sound that you are hearing is the air rushing past your vocal chords creating unnecessary tension. If your vocal chords are tense during the inhalation process, they will be in a tense position when you vocalize. The use of a silent breath eliminates this unnecessary tension. The vocal chords remain in a relaxed state during inhalation and therefore are in a relaxed state to vocalize.
Think of the relationship between your breathing technique and vocal chords as a garden hose! Let me explain:
- Pressurized water is pumped through a garden hose to an adjustable nozzle. The nozzle can determine how much water to let through. It controls the pressure.
- Pressurized air is pumped (by the diaphragm) through our windpipe to our vocal chords. The vocal chords determine how much air to let through. They control the pressure.
Now that you know the role of the vocal chords in producing sound, let’s discuss the onset of sound.
A good beginning to the tone is vital to the rest of the phrase that you sing.
There are 3 ways we can position our vocal chords to make sound:
- The Hard Onset
- The Soft Onset
- The Balanced Onset
The Hard Onset
During the hard onset, the vocal chords close fully after the inhalation of air. This creates a large build up of pressure. When the chords are open, the air rushes though causing an exploding sound. This sound is quite harsh and not very pleasant on the ears or the vocal chords!
AH AH AH AH AH
The Soft Onset
During the soft onset, the vocal chords remain partially open after the inhalation of air. There is a lack of pressure because the air is flowing before the chords come together. This will result in a “breathy” sound. Some artists use this sound for stylized purposes, but generally it is not an efficient way to produce a decent tone. During the exercise add a “H” before you vocalize the “AH”
HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH
The hard onset and soft onset should not be used for skilled singing. They are demonstrated here to give you an understanding of how sounds are created. There is a more efficient way to make sound.
The Balanced Onset
The problem with the hard onset is too much pressure, and the problem with the soft onset is not enough pressure. The balanced onset is somewhere between the two. The vocal chords remain relaxed in a partially closed position. There is still enough pressure to project the sound, but unlike the hard onset the sound will not explode. It is a more gradual release of the pressure.
AH AH AH AH AH
It is useful to practice this exercise with the use of vocal fry at the start of each “AH”. Vocal fry is the vibration of the vocal chords at their slowest vibrating rate. It is very easy on the voice. If you are having trouble with the sound try and imitate the “creepy sound” in the movie “The Grudge”, or the sound cartoon character “Elmer Fudd” makes when talking.
The balanced onset is vital to the development of your tone. It is important that you take the time to get comfortable with vocal fry. You can download an exercise to develop vocal fry in my article How To Develop Your Tone.
I hope you have learned something about your voice from this article.
Ian CastleShare on Facebook
How is sound produced?
In this video you will learn how sound is produced, what your vocal chords are, and the most efficient way to coordinate your vocal chords to produce a great sound. You will also learn about the improper ways that singers create sound.
Ian CastleShare on Facebook