(Can you put your hand on your diaphragm?)
students. Today we will take a look at the basic parts of our
vocal instrument. Iím sure you considered cutting this class;
singers rarely educate themselves on the various parts of the
fear the knowledge will hamper free spirit. Ironically, this
attitude often inhibits vocal ability due to common misconceptions.
Many of us maintain a cartoon-like perception of anatomy. We
picture, for instance, the lungs to be hollow, balloon-like
organs occupying the entire area inside the rib cage. Muscle
behavior is based on these larger-than-life perceptions, causing
problems with control.
starts with an inhale. Most people know this action requires
the diaphragm but are not aware of its location or how it works.
Place your hand over your belly button. This area is NOT your
diaphragm; it is the abdominal wall. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped
muscle which divides your torso, separating the lungs and heart
above (thoracic cavity) from the digestive organs below (abdominal
cavity). To locate, place your finger at the bottom of your
sternum bone (breast plate); the diaphragm crosses directly
behind. Notice it is fairly high up inside the rib cage. Now
place your hands on your chest, fingers facing up, with the
base of the palms on your nipples. This provides a good visual
of the size of your lungs. Made of thousands of tiny air sacks
called alveoli, the lungs resemble dense sponges more than balloons.
They do not draw in air themselves; they are enlarged as the
diaphragm descends (inhale) and reduced as the diaphragm returns
(exhale). When you hear the term Ďsupportí in relation to singing,
it means the diaphragm is able to move up and down freely and
make minute adjustments in air pressure. It does not mean to
push from the abdominal wall.
is in the middle of the throat, sitting on top of the windpipe
and is the vibrator of the instrument. Its inside diameter is
about the size of a quarter. There are two horizontal flaps
within the larynx, called vocal folds, which can partially cover
the windpipe and vibrate when air passes through. These folds
are similar to eyelids in size and shape but are covered by
mucus membranes and need to be kept lubricated. There is a network
of muscles in and around the folds which manipulate their tension
for pitch change, thickness for volume and their position for
a variety of tonal qualities. These muscles operate reflexively,
like those of the eye, and work best when provided with an appropriate
amount of air pressure.
a short stretch of throat above the larynx called the pharynx.
It is the main resonator of the voice. Most of us imagine this
area as having a large diameter; yet we know better than to
swallow a penny. The pharynx is lined with sensitive muscles
which narrow the internal space further in response to contractions
of the abdominal wall. The pharynx connects to the mouth and
nasal cavities, also important resonators. The muscles of the
tongue and jaw are the strongest in the body, and both brace
instinctively to provide extra rigidity to the throat. All these
closing actions greatly reduce the potential for overtones.
Another reason not to over-drive your air pressure.
requires a specific touch and the voice is no exception. Visualizing
how small the parts of your instrument really are will help
balance muscle activity. What I have provided is a very basic
overview. Do yourself a favor and explore an anatomy book. The
more you know about the functions of each part, the easier it
is to make any instrument sing. Thatís all for today. Class
Baxter is a vocal therapist
who offers private and video lessons. To contact him, call:
Visit his website at: www.voicelesson.com
with the kind permission of Mark