The Larynx & Vocal Tract

Nuggets of Wisdom

  • "Speakers and singers often unconsciously introduce unnecessary strain and tension into the larynx by using too much of its valving action while phonating"

  • "Beautiful sounds start in the mind of the singer"

  • "A good attack originates in the mind of the singer before the physical act takes place; it includes preparation for the correct pitch, tone quality and dynamic level"

  • "A good singer is a head and a chest with nothing in between"

  • "Flow Phonation"

  • "Wasted air is wasted tone"

Vocal Cord Animation





















Trans-Nasal Endoscopy



















Good Vocal Sound

  • Freely produced

  • Pleasant to listen to

  • Loud enough to be heard easily

  • Rich, ringing and resonant

  • Energy flows smoothly from note to note

  • Consistently produced

  • Vibrant, dynamic and alive

  • Flexible expressive

Negative Characteristics

  • Constricted, forced or strained

  • Strident or rasping

  • Too loud, resembling shouting or yelling

  • Hoarse

  • Breathy

  • Weak, colorless or devitalized

  • Inconsistently produced

  • Shaky or wobbly

Hypofunctional Phonation

Incomplete closure of the glottis because the body is not working hard enough to produce a vital sound

  • Poor posture(establish good habits)

  • Shallow breathing(establish good habits)

  • Lack of suspension phase of breathing(see exercise below)

  • Singing too softly(sing to the last row, use more energy)

  • Unhealthy vocal models(humming vibration in the roof of the mouth, forward vowels and nasal consonants)

  • Lack of involvement in the music(emote)

  • Timid personality(imitate an opera singer)

Hyperfunction Phonation

Demanding too much from the laryngeal mechanism due to excessive tension in the vocal folds;phonation tends to start with an explosion of air until the vocal folds are violently blown apart(glottal shock)and can produce contact ulcers between the cartilages.

  • Singing in the wrong voice classification, especially in too high a tessitura

  • Speaking far above or below optimum pitch

  • Singing or speaking in a noisy environment or habitually too loud

  • Screaming, shouting, yelling

  • Incorrect breathing and over support(maintain the beginning of a yawn position)

  • Unhealthy vocal models(pg. 91 balanced/soft attack exercise, lip rounding/back vowels)

  • Tense personality(relaxation exercises


1. Breath in as if beginning a yawn

2. Feel your body expand around the middle

3. Suspend your breath just as you are comfortably full of air

4. Start the sound by merely thinking to do so, without conscious physical effort

5. Maintain expansion around the middle for as long as the sound lasts

6. Maintain good posture by standing tall and stretching the spine

General Notes

  • The jaw should drop freely, free to move.

  • Since you have no direct control over your vocal cords it is best to think about the kind of sound you want to produce and about what the sensations of a good sound are.

  • The sound must be kept vital and headed somewhere.

  • Imagine sound is flowing freely out of your body but the breath is staying inside your body.

  • The roof of your mouth should vibrate creating a 'hummy' feeling.


Julie Freebern