Can Anybody Sing?

How The Vocal Cords and Larynx Work

Your vocal cords and the muscles used to control your vocal cords are located inside the larynx. The mechanism involved in sound creation from the vocal cords is much more simple than most people think. The vocal cords and larynx, and how they work for singing, seems to be a complicated mystery for many singers. Lets clear all of this up teach you how the vocal cords and larynx work for singing as we discuss the anatomy and processes involved during the production of sound and pitch.

Video of how the vocal cords work while singing:

What is the larynx and how do vocal cords work?

The larynx is the portion of your respiratory tract between the trachea and pharynx. The larynx is made out of cartilage and forms the "Adam's apple" (the lump in the front of your neck below your chin) which is most noticeable in men. The larynx, also known as the voice box, is a tube-like organ that contains the vocal cords. The vocal cords are two elastic bands of tissue that form the shape of a "V" inside the larynx. When we inhale (breathe in) the air passes through the larynx and the vocal cords remain relaxed to allow the air to easily pass through. Breathing for singing is a separate topic. When we exhale (breathe out) the vocal cords also remain relaxed inside the larynx and allow the air to pass through the space between the vocal cords without making any sound. The larynx does not move when we breathe like this. The air is just simply passing through the vocal cords inside the larynx without resistance. However, when we speak, something does occur inside the larynx. When we talk, the vocal cords move closer together to eliminate the space between eachother. Air is then forced between the vocal cords which causes them to vibrate as the air passes through. This vibration of the vocal cords is the mechanism of sound creation. The frequency in which the vocal cords vibrate (how fast they are vibrating) is what determines pitch. Slower vibrations will produce a lower pitch while faster vibrations will produce a higher pitch. How the vocal cords work is as simple as that. Sound and pitch creation in the larynx is simply a result of the vocal cords closing off the passage through the larynx which causes them to vibrate as the air pushes its way through. Remember, the larynx does not need to move around (neither high or low) while this simple process is taking place. Now lets take a look at how different words and sounds are created after the vocal cords have done their work inside the larynx.

So what happens after the vocal cords create sound inside the larynx?

After the vocal cords work to produce audible sound that travels out of the larynx, the sound waves enter the pharynx. The pharynx is basically the back of your mouth and throat. Some sound waves also enter your nasal cavity. These spaces and cavities in your nose and mouth alter the sound and gives it your unique identity. These sounds are then manipulated by your tongue, lips, and shape of your mouth, etc to produce certain words and sounds. So to recap, inside the larynx you have vocal cords in the shape of a "V" that work by coming together to make sound as air passes between them and causes the vocal cords to vibrate. The frequency in which the vocal cords vibrate is what determines pitch. After the sound and pitch have been produced, your tongue and lips, etc shape the sound into specific words. This gives you the final product of speech, or in this case, singing. Of course this is a simplified explanation of how the vocal cords work, however, this basic knowledge will go a long ways and allow you to view singing in a new and more accurate way.

What to take from all of this:

This simple process of how the vocal cords work inside your larynx should setup your approach to singing to be less complicated. There is no need to approach singing as if it is some mysteriously complicated skill. It is actually quite basic, just like talking, but it is so hard because people make it harder than it needs to be. Everybody has a larynx that contains the muscles necessary to control your vocal cords, and everybody can talk. Therefore, anybody can learn how to sing. Simple process, and simple facts. Also, if you are wondering how to improve your vocal tone quality then understanding all of the processes described above will be of great assistance. Now that you understand how the vocal cords work you will be able to grasp vocal technique concepts more easily than before. This is just the foundation of the vocal cord mechanisms.