Scoop-epiglottic sphincter (SCN)




All the structural elements of our vocal apparatus are the essence of muscles and cartilage, the movement (change of position) of which determines which way our voiced exhalation will go and what vocal characteristics it will acquire. There are ten main such structural elements. One of them, the most important and basic, the one that directly produces the sound is the true vocal cords. All other structural elements play the role of a kind of filters, “gadgets”, tuning effects, if such a comparison can be called correct. It depends on them what kind of quality characteristics our listeners will hear.

For more successful (in terms of the richness of the singing sound) singers, many processes occur spontaneously, they are based on the good (more often, innate) work of auditory-speech-motor analyzers. But the more vocal problems we hear in the voice of our student, the more likely that this is a consequence of a violation of the work of the structural elements of the vocal apparatus known to us. It remains only to determine which ones, to carry out corrective work and correct the situation.

Let’s try to figure out what specifically affects the work (or lack thereof) of each of the structural elements known to us. Violation of the correct operation, most often, is caused by a violation of the connections of a particular structure with auditory or speech-motor analyzers. Therefore, the essence of corrective work should be reduced to the establishment, development and consolidation of these ties.

What specific methods and techniques this work is carried out can only be found out personally and only at the EVT (Estill Voice Training) Seminars, which have been held here in Russia since 2015. And in this paragraph we will talk about the functional features of the structural elements of the human vocal apparatus.

1. True vocal cords .

They are located in the center of the larynx, on the one hand they are adjacent to the thyroid cartilage, on the other, they are attached to two arytenoids. Male vocal cords are thicker and generally longer. The more the Adam’s apple (thyroid cartilage) is visualized, the longer the vocal cords indicate that their owner is likely to have a low voice. The female vocal cords are shorter and thinner. The structure of the vocal cords is complex, but we need to know two main parameters: they contain a muscle and a sheath.

The vocal cords during speech and singing make the number of oscillations that corresponds to the pitch of the sounds produced. Male – on average from 40 Hz to 600 Hz, female – from 400 Hz to 2000 Hz.

* bass – 80-350 Hz, and English singer Norman Allin even took a frequency of 44 Hz
* baritone – 110-149 Hz
* tenor – 130-520 Hz
* treble – 260–1000 Hz
* soprano – 260-1050 Hz
* coloratura soprano – up to 1400 Hz, and the Frenchwoman Mado Robin took the fourth octave re – 2300 Hz.

This means that the number of oscillations is equal to the number of Hz. Per second. Huge job! The load is very large and without our efforts to create additional tension in this area of the larynx.

In addition, the higher the sound we produce, the more our vocal cords are stretched and strained. During work, the ligament muscle contracts, respectively, becomes shorter (try to “play” with the biceps and see how this principle works). At some point, the length of the vocal muscle becomes insufficient for voicing the pitch of the note, and the dense sound is interrupted. Then the sheath of the ligament begins to work, which can stretch much more. In the absence of the necessary filters, the sound immediately becomes light and empty. Everyone has heard or experienced this effect. Teachers usually state it as “removal from the sound.” In order for the transition to the work of the sheath of the ligament not to have such an effect, it is necessary to connect certain filters and muscle work to support the sound.

Sometimes, when switching to the upper register of the range, a person uses the so-called falsetto for convenience. That is, a sound in which air is clearly audible. This sound is produced when the arytenoid cartilages rise and the glottis cannot close tightly. Then nothing prevents the exhalation coming out of the trachea.

So, we have seen that the true vocal cords can work in three different ways, while producing different acoustic characteristics of the sound. However, there is a fourth option, when our vocal cords oscillate in a relaxed manner. In this case no tonal sound is produced and we only hear dry crackling. In the methods described earlier, we know it as a strobe bass. In world modern vocal practice, it is called Fry (fry). There is another type of true vocal cord closure that allows the singer to hit high-pitched notes tight and bright, but that’s a different story and more on that later.

The most terrible sin is still considered to be “singing on the ligaments”. But, objectively, you can’t sing on anything else except on vocal cords! It is the only organ in our body capable of producing intelligible sounds! The definition of “singing on the ligaments” occurs when the singer is hoarse and pushing, making tight, tense sounds. As a rule, this has little to do with the work of the true vocal cords, because all these signs tell us that at the moment the singer has used false ones.

2. False vocal cords .

They are located in close proximity to the true ligaments, they represent two movable muscular-elastic zones. When an “unauthorized” tension occurs in the larynx zone, they set in motion and squeeze the glottis from both sides. When the singer tries to “break through” this muscular thickness, they block it even more reliably. Result: unpleasant (up to pain) sensations in the area of the larynx and true vocal cords, vocal clip and phonation interruption. Compression of false ligaments provokes not only a loud cry, but also tension caused by lifting weights, pent-up sobs, resentment, stress. Even ordinary “pulls” cause them to be slightly compressed. As you can see, in order for the false vocal cords to begin to close, it only takes a little overexertion. They perform a protective function in the body, mechanically stopping phonation if there is a danger of damage to the true vocal cords. Therefore, having felt this sensation, you must immediately stop squeezing out the sound and try to relax as much as possible. And best of all, laugh. Laughter, as a special biomechanical process, opens the false vocal cords, neutralizing their action.

“Lump in the throat” is a typical description of the sensation of compression of the false vocal cords. Positive emotions and all kinds of art therapy are included in almost all courses of psychological rehabilitation of people with various forms of depression and prolonged stress. As it turned out, this simple technique also helps vocalists in a state of clamping the larynx, and quickly.

3. Larynx .

The largest filter Inside the larynx, as in a pencil case, there are some other structural elements of the vocal apparatus. The larynx is a mobile organ and can technically be in three different positions: high, medium and low. The higher we raise the larynx, the more high frequencies will be in the sound, therefore, acoustically our sound will seem louder and sharper. The low position of the larynx provides the sound with low frequencies, and, accordingly, acoustic “shading” and “dullness”. The lowered (slightly below average) position of the larynx is used in the academic (opera) sound, giving it a noble softness. Holding the larynx in a middle position gives us the opportunity to avoid active-high or active-low frequencies while singing, unless the performance task requires otherwise.

The average position of the larynx is not so easy to determine. The fact is that for Russian-speaking people, a lower than average position of the larynx is more typical. This is due to the melody and technique of native speech. Therefore, for the most part, few people notice that his larynx is in a reduced state. Because this position seems familiar. At the same time, there are a sufficient number of people who have the usual position of the larynx, on the contrary, is high. You will determine the correctly found middle position of the larynx for yourself when between it and the high, between it and the low you will hear a noticeable difference in the color of the sound.

There is still a lot of controversy about the larynx. Basically, they argue about her mobility-immobility. In fact, both are right.

For example, you raised the larynx to the top position, but no matter how you hold it, it will still oscillate depending on the pitch of the notes being sung. The main thing here is to prevent the larynx from “falling” to a low position from the upper one, when the amplitude of its oscillation will lead it to the lower filter position at a lower sound in the melody. It is important to understand that forcibly holding it in an extremely high position, “locking” it, is also not worth it: such a maneuver will significantly distort the sound, excessive muscle tension in this zone can cause reflex closure of the upper entrance to the larynx! An experienced singer keeps the upper position of the larynx regardless of the pitch and one gets the feeling that his larynx is motionless. But in fact this is not so: it still makes small oscillatory movements. And an inexperienced singer at low sounds “drops” the larynx down and in the voice one immediately hears, excuse me, “donkey sounds”. It is these factors that force the adherents of the two theories to cross swords.

Soft sky

Its location is just behind the solid sky. The soft palate is sometimes referred to as the “veil of the palate”. Indeed, it is a soft elastic structure, on the rise of which the openness, nasalization or nasality of our sound depends.

A nasal sound is produced when the soft palate descends to the root of our tongue, opening up the space of the nasal airways above it, but blocking the pharynx. In this case, we can only make indistinct closed sounds. Try to say any English word with -ing ending and you will hear them.

When the soft palate rises a little, the nasal passages also remain free for exhalation, but the pharynx also opens. With this position during phonation, we hear nasalized sounds, quite intelligible, but, to varying degrees, soft and “nasal”.

When the soft palate rises and blocks air and sound from entering the nasal passages, sound leaves the singer only through the mouth. This sound is much brighter, open, confident.

There is a certain dependence of the soft palate and the position of the larynx: when it rises up, the palatopharyngeal muscle reflexively lowers the soft palate lower, and the singer risks inopportunely making a nasalized sound. Therefore, when lifting the larynx up, the singer needs to control the position of the soft palate.

Scoop-epiglottic sphincter (SCN)

It is located in the region of the upper arch of the larynx and is an elastic “coupling”. It is this structural element of our vocal apparatus that, when contracting, is responsible for the sonority and flight of our voice. Its participation in phonation plays a huge role in the appearance of a large number of high frequencies in the sound, which make our voice louder. As you know, it is the amount of high frequencies in the sound that makes it brighter and acoustically louder – with equal effort. The sound produced by the singer without the participation of this structural element will seem to our listeners much quieter than the sound of the same effort, in which he took part.

Children’s voices tend to contain high frequencies in abundance. Those of us who have ever had a kindergarten or school under our windows quite clearly imagine how, to put it mildly, children playing can be heard well. This natural ringing characteristic of our voice is gradually lost with age. Since childhood, we have been told that “talking loudly is ugly” and, over time, our voice becomes muffled. To varying degrees, the participation of NS in the production of voice remains with teachers in schools, educators in kindergarten, etc., when they, unconsciously using this structural element, are able for a long time and without obvious voice fatigue, to shout over large groups of children, attracting their attention.

Indeed, SCHN helps to significantly increase the volume of the voice due to sonority, and at the same time, a person practically does not strain and is able to speak for a long time to a large noisy audience. In recent years, there have been many schools of oratory skills, where people are taught to speak loudly again, because for various “salespeople”, speakers, politicians, actors, announcers, the ability to speak for a long time, loudly and confidently is considered an important element of the profession and activity!

6. Thyroid cartilage .

Another structural element of the vocal apparatus related to the sound source. In the process of ordinary speech, he takes a vertical position. In this case, our voice sounds flat, light and cheerful. In the case when we complain, whine, persuade – he leans forward. That is why our voice changes color to a darker, more melodious, voluminous one. The vertical thyroid cartilage in singing is more often used by folk (folk) and pop (in the broad sense) performers. The slope of the thyroid cartilage immediately betrays academic singers. But this does not mean that it can only be used in this way and not otherwise. In works of any genre (except academic, of course!) various performance tasks are possible that require a brighter or darker sound.

In addition, the inclination of the thyroid cartilage, to which, as we said above, the true vocal cords are attached on the one hand, contributes to their lengthening, which in some cases plays an important role in singing higher notes.

The tilt of the thyroid cartilage, among other things, helps the singer achieve the vibrato effect in the sound.

Cricoid cartilage

Perhaps one of the most difficult to feel structures of the vocal apparatus. It is located at the base of the larynx and the lower end is adjacent to the trachea. The cricoid cartilage, with a certain effort, can make a slight tilt. At the same time, the muscles that control the movements of the vocal cords cause them to close on more than 70% of the surface, which makes it possible for the singer to generate a very dense, bright sound. This sound is especially good in the upper register, and it is the inclination of the cricoid cartilage that underlies such a vocal characteristic as balting.

A feature of sound extraction at the moment of inclination of the cricoid cartilage is the absence of air in the sound and the high larynx. An attempt to “blow out” the sound, which is obtained in this case, in order to increase the volume of the feed, can end in failure for the vocal cords of the singer. Judge for yourself: breaking such tightly closed vocal cords with an air jet is like pulling the fabric near the seam with all your might. The seam will not open, but a hole will certainly form next to it.

The inclination of the cricoid cartilage in ordinary life occurs when we call someone briefly and loudly: “Hey!” Another example, less pleasant, but certainly felt by everyone, is the moment at the very beginning of a vomiting attack, during which both the cartilage itself and the larynx rise up.

In general, balting is called vocality, which has a high vocal price: “If you don’t do it right, you will pay dearly for it. And if you are right, you will be paid dearly.” Indeed, singers who successfully use belting sounds in their vocals are highly valued among equal colleagues in the workshop.


Like any other structure of the vocal apparatus, the tongue can also occupy several positions. There are three main provisions.

The upper position of the tongue is characterized by the rise of its root to the upper molars. Since the root of the tongue, going deep into the larynx, forms its front wall, the rise of the root of the tongue and its upper position to some extent contributes to raising the larynx and keeping it in this position. With this position of the tongue, the sound has a brighter color due to the increase in the same high frequencies. For English-speakers, the high position of the language is “working”, the main one.

We can observe the low position of the language among Russian speakers. Pay attention to how you pronounce the words: the tongue practically lies on the lower teeth. This is one of the explanations that the melody of Russian speech is characterized by a somewhat lowered larynx. In order to lift the root of the tongue up, we need some muscular effort, and concentration of attention to keep it there. And the low position of the tongue for us is normal and relaxed. It is this fact that pretty much spoils our pronunciation when we try to sing songs in English.

The middle position of the tongue is its location between the upper and lower teeth. It does not have a significant effect on the vocal characteristics of the sound, but since its connection with the larynx is significant, the average position of the tongue helps to maintain its average position. In general, if you put your hand on your neck in the larynx area and just chat in your mouth with your tongue, you will feel how the larynx is shaking from its movements. What is the conclusion? – The uncontrolled movement of the tongue in the mouth also causes uncontrolled chaotic movements of this structure, which is important for the formation of a singing sound.


The lips are another structure that is undeservedly given little attention. However, lips are the “last outpost” on the path of sound to the listener. It depends on their position whether its quality will be more “dark” or “light”. Extended forward, the lips sound more “covered” in color, making it “darker”. This effect is achieved by the fact that the lips stretched forward lengthen the extension pipe in a peculiar way and the sound travels along the “dark corridor” for a longer time. Stretched as if in a smile, the lips shorten this path considerably, making the sound exit wider. This technique allows you to “brighten” the sound as much as possible.

If you carefully observe the performance of the famous American singer, Rachel Ferrell, you can track and hear in all details the change in the color of the sound depending on the position of the lips (as well as the tongue and lower jaw) of the singer, whose manner in this sense is extremely eccentric and indicative.

Lower jaw

Another easy to visualize filter. Academic singing, which in our country often forms the basis of any manner, involves a wide open mouth. Meanwhile, few people think that the lower jaw lowered down “provokes” the lowering of the larynx and deprives the sound of high frequencies. This makes the sound quieter acoustically and makes the singer tense up if they try to increase the volume with extra effort. This happens if, when singing in a low register, the performer does not connect voiced filters to his lowered jaw (for example, a high tongue or an abbreviated CHN). At the same time, the lowered jaw in the high register helps to make the sound more spacious. It all depends on the performance task and the singer’s competent choice of the position of this filter. Few places in contemporary vocal genres require frequent or consistent use of a dropped jaw.

The usual, average, relaxed position of the lower jaw is much more common. This filter allows you to cope much more successfully with the vocal-rhythmic and tempo difficulties of modern music, to maintain a light, uniform “texture” of the sound. With the average position of the lower jaw, the singer is closest to the speech manner, i.e. to habitual, free pronunciation, which does not lead to the clamping of the speech apparatus, which inevitably occurs with active articulation.

Many singers experiment with the position of their lower jaw, pushing it slightly forward or pulling it back a little (relative to the upper teeth) during the performance. As we said above, any change in the position of the tongue, lips and lower jaw invariably affects the acoustic characteristics of the sound, adding additional “colors” and sound character to it.

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