Question: Are there 7 resonators in the human sound machine? Is the “chest voice” one resonator which includes the neck and the oral cavity? Is the nasal cavity a resonator? Does this mean there are 5 sinus cavities?

Answer: As far as the resonators go, I have never really spent much time trying to analyze how many resonators there are and specifically trying to name them. I think that it is very interesting to know and understand the science and physiology of the voice, however, it is most useful just to explain what the singer is feeling, not to try and help them sing better. In math, if A=B, then B=A. However, in voice training I have found that this is not so. You cannot create good singing by explaining to a singer how it SHOULD feel and what muscles and resonators in the body are “working” at any particular time and then telling the singer to try and make those parts of the body work. In my opinion, this is the problem with the “science based” vocal techniques.

What we should do as teachers is to sense what is not functioning properly with the singer at any particular time and give them an exercise that helps them feel the correct sensations. We acknowledge what they are feeling so they can remember the sensations and move forward making sure they maintain the feelings. At this point, if they are curious and we feel it might be helpful for them to understand what is happening we can explain physiologically what they are feeling so they can better acknowledge the feeling; however, this is interesting, but usually unnecessary.

We do not tell the singers where they should “place” the sound or what muscles they should be “tightening”, etc. When you ask someone to speak louder, yes, there is an increase in air flow and more compression with the diaphragm, but we don’t tell them to “tighten their abs” or anything else to get a louder sound. The reaction of the body is the “result”, not the “cause”. What is really important is what is happening at the vocal fold level and in the vocal tract. If we will focus on that, it has been my experience that the science will work properly.

Basically, it is important for the singer to understand that the sound will feel “lower” in their body on low notes and they will feel a shift of resonance behind the soft palate, into the head, as they move up the scale. The singer needs to know this so that he or she can accept these sensations and not resist or fight them. However, we don’t tell them to “put it in the nose” or “bring it forward”, etc.

Now, having said all that…There are seven areas that may be listed as possible vocal resonators. In sequence from the lowest within the body to the highest, these areas are the chest, the tracheal tree, the larynx itself, the pharynx, the oral cavity, the nasal cavity, and the sinuses. (Reference:Greene, Margaret; Lesley Mathieson (2001). The Voice and its Disorders. John Wiley & Sons; 6th Edition edition. ISBN 978-1-86156-196-1)

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