Weekly Teaching Tip – Tricia Grey
Jan. 29, 2018

We need to coordinate and balance four components of our vocal “system” in order to sing well:

1. Balanced onset.

2. Balance of TA/CT muscle activity.

3. Balanced Resonance, or more precisely formant/harmonic activity, which we control by the way we shape the resonators of the pharynx and mouth, including the tongue, lips, jaw space, and soft palate.

4. Balance of air pressure and vocal fold resistance, or air and muscle.

1. Balanced Onset: Appropriate Vocal Fold Adduction: Onset refers to how a vocal sound is initiated. The vocal folds must be adducted, or brought together, at the onset of sound. If the folds are not properly adducted the sound is breathy, weak, and anemic. Singers often come in to the studio with the idea that they need to work on breathing because they can’t get through a phrase without running out of breath. The problem often lies not with their breathing, but with their valving- the adduction of the vocal folds. If the folds are not appropriately adducted to begin sound, air escapes through the folds. This means the singer will run out of breath and that the sound they are producing will be breathy, weak, and inefficient. The quality will be anemic due to a lack of high harmonics. The three types of onset are:

1. Aspirated or Breathy (too much airflow) (hypo-adducted vocal folds).

2. Balanced or appropriately adducted.

3. Hard Attack-squeezed or over-compressed (hyper-adducted vocal folds).

A balanced onset will result in a clear, ringing, efficient vocal sound. The breathy onset results in a weak, airy sound that is vocally tiring and the squeezed onset results in excessive air pressure and can potentially result in vocal trauma.

Adduction of the vocal folds occurs when the arytenoid cartilages, to which to vocal folds are attached in the back of the larynx, pivot and glide toward one another as a result of LCA (lateral cricoarytenoid) and TA (thyroarytenoid) muscle contraction, changing the position of the folds from a “V” shape to an “I” shape, (when seen from above) with the vocal folds lined up at the midline. This is also known as medial compression. In this position the folds can effectively resist subglottal air pressure to create clear, powerful tone. If the folds are not properly adducted the orifice between the folds is too large, resistance to subglottal airpressure is inadequate, and the sound is breathy, inefficient, and weak due to a lack of higher overtones.

Related Articles