Strengthening Vocal Cord Abduction in Female voices

Weekly Teaching Tip – Jan. 2, 2012

Question: What exercises work best to build vocal cord abduction in females who tend to have light or no cord adduction?

Answer: Adduction is the process of the vocal folds coming together. Abduction, on the other hand is the process of the vocal folds pulling apart. Both processes occur when phonating as the vocal folds come together, then pull apart continuously. Normally if a voice is ‘light’ or ‘airy’ sounding, or in general just isn’t as ‘strong’ as  the singer would like it to be, it indicates that the process of adduction, or bringing the vocal folds together, (also known as ‘vocal cord closure’) is not occurring properly. In other words, too much air is “leaking” between the vocal folds and not enough ‘cord closure’ is being experienced.

If we hear this in our students it is important to address the problem as it indicates that the body is out of balance and not functioning as it should. We need to assign exercises that will help the student get the feeling of increased vocal cord closure. One of the best exercises to help increase vocal cord closure is ‘nay’. ‘Agh’ or ‘nagh’ (as in back) is also effective. The ‘n’ helps bring the vocal folds together and the ‘ay’ helps thin the vocal folds so that the singer doesn’t try and hold onto too much weight from the vocal fold.

However, sometimes this lack of ‘cord closure’ is caused by the larynx being too high. If this is the case ‘nay, or ‘nagh’ would not be a good choice because these sounds tend to encourage the larynx to rise. If the larynx is already a bit high you usually don’t want to encourage it to go even higher. In this case, ‘gee’ or ‘gooh’ (as in good) are usually better. The ‘g’ helps bring the vocal folds together, but helps keep the larynx down. The ‘ee’ and ‘ooh’ are still narrow vowels which encourage the vocal folds to thin so that the singer doesn’t try to ‘hold onto’ too much of the vocal fold.

In extreme cases, if the larynx is really rising, the singer can add a ‘hooty’ or ‘dopey’ sound to the ‘gee’ or ‘gooh’ which will help hold the larynx down, while still experiencing increased cord closure because of the ‘g’ and vocal fold thinning because of the narrow vowel.


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