Voice Training/Vocal Technique
Vocal Technique is the practice of using the voice in a particular way when singing or speaking. Vocal Technique is a rehearsed way of adjusting the voice both musically and non-musically; to create different sounds or voice qualities. The techniques required to control the voice are physical, and can concern a person's posture whilst singing or speaking; or the way in which they actually produce the sound. This article is primarily concerned with singing in which vocal technique is vastly more complex, although the same principles of technique can also be applied to the spoken word.
There are numerous vocal techniques for singing, which have developed over hundreds of years. As civilization has developed and musical tastes have changed, people have studied the physical anatomy of the voice or the feeling of using the voice and learned ways of controlling the voice to produce a particular sound. In the modern world, most vocal styles can be divided into classical and non-classical techniques.
Singers employ a number of techniques to gain control of the voice. These techniques can be split into three distinct areas, each equally as important in producing the overall 'voice'. Depending on the style of voice that the singer is trying to achieve, each of these areas will be addressed in very different ways, although the core principles remain the same.
All singing begins with breath. All vocal sounds are created by vibrations in the larynx caused by air from the lungs. Breathing in everyday life is a subconscious bodily function which occurs naturally, however the singer must have control of the intake and exhalation of breath to achieve maximum results from their voice.
As research has been carried out in the field of vocalization, one term in particular has become common when referring to the use of breath - Sub-Glottic Pressure. In simple terms, sub-glottic pressure is the regulation of the flow of breath in and out of the lungs, thus in turn the control of the air flow through the vocal tract. This is a very simple concept in theory and most people can consciously control their breathing. For a singer however, the use of sub-glottic pressure is much more complex, involving controlled use of the diaphragm, and the muscles of the stomach, waist and back. This requires a great deal of practice if the singer is to achieve absolute control of this feature of the voice.
Most people have a basic understanding of the 'source' of the voice. The common term is that we have vocal cords situated in the 'adam's apple'. This common understanding, whilst scientifically and anatomically inaccurate is actually correct in principle.
The actual sound that we hear when singing is physically produced in the vocal tract or throat, approximately at the conjunction of the thyroid and cricoid cartilages. The correct anatomical term for the vocal cords is actually the vocal folds. They are not cords or strings as commonly misconceived, but are actually skin-like flaps which are stretched across the larynx. This is the first point that any sound is made in the vocal process. No sound is produced below the vocal folds, this is a physical impossibility.
The pitch or frequency of the sound is dictated by how far apart the vocal folds are. Breath from the lungs builds up behind the folds creating pressure (sub-glottic pressure). This air pressure causes the vocal folds to create and make sound. The wider apart the vocal folds, the more air that is allowed through, so the folds vibrate more slowly creating a deeper or lower sound. High sounds are created by the folds being close together with lots of pressure behind, causing a much faster vibration.
This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Public Speaking. The Official Guide to Public Speaking is Nancy Daniels. Public Speaking is speaking to a group of people in a structured manner with the intention to inform, influence, or entertain the audience. A good orator should be able to invoke emotion in their listeners, not just inform them.
Additional Resources covering Public Speaking can be found at: