Singers Edge With MaestroVic: The nature of the human voice

#4.    THE NATURE OF THE HUMAN VOICE (PART 1)

You are welcome to another bumper package on Singers’ Edge.

The importance of the voice to a singer as established in our previous edition cannot be over-emphasized. That’s why this week’s publication brings to the fore understanding the nature of the human voice.

I still maintain that it is not enough to identify what vocal challenge you have, and proffering solution to it; because such solution will be short-lived. But it is also important to study how the various systems that help in the production of speech sounds work, and the activities that take place during speech production, to help forestall problems that may lead to vocal deterioration in the future.

DEFINITION OF THE VOICE

The voice is defined as a sound uttered when breath vibrates the vocal cords, producing a resonance absent in breath alone.

ORGANS OF SPEECH PRODUCTION

More than half of the human body, from the head to the abdomen is needed for the production of speech sounds.

The organs used for speech production are basically the same in all human beings, including that of a professional or a wacky vocalist.

Three bodily organs work in consonance in the production of speech sound. And we shall examine them in no particular order.

The first group lies in the head, which is known as the Articulatory System.

This system consists of the nose, lips, mouth and its contents. The nasal cavity extends from the pharynx to the nostrils. Nasalized voice, also known as ‘falsetto’ can be produced in the nasal cavity.

To produce the falsetto, the velum is lowered to allow air from the lungs get the articulators, and passes more through the nasal cavity (with the help of the lowered velum) and the oral cavity simultaneously.

Note that the brain also resides in this system. And the brain can be said to be the engine that first initiate the process of speech. This will be further explained in subsequent subheadings.

The second group lies in the throat, known as the Phonatory System. This system consist of the trachea (windpipe)), the larynx, also known as voice box or Adam’s apple (which houses the two vocal cords, and the space between the vocal cords is known as the glottis). The larynx extends to the pharynx, and the pharynx extends to the oral and nasal cavity. We also have the uvula, also known as the soft palate, and the epiglottis.

The epiglottis is a flap of tissue found at the base of the root of the tongue. It covers the larynx during swallowing to allow food get into the food passage.

And the third group lies in the trunk, known as the Respiratory System.

The system consists of the lungs, ribcage, diaphragm, and the respiratory muscles.

Quickly, it is important to stress here that none of these systems highlighted can completely work in isolation of others. All the systems work in consonance and simultaneously in the production of speech.

PROCESS OF SPEECH PRODUCTION

The source of energy in speech production is the airstream. The airstream is a moving current of air.

Speech sound does not occur in a vacuum; the idea of what speech to be uttered is first generated in the brain, as stated earlier. Afterwards, the brain sends the signals through the neurons which are connected to the other bodily organs.

Speech sounds are produced when air from the lungs pass through the trachea, and get to the larynx which accommodates the two vocal cords. When the air hit the vocal cords, it causes them to vibrate, and the vibration resonates as a result of the space in the pharyngeal wall.

There is usually a resonance when you sing or talk in a bathroom, because of the reflexive surfaces in it such as tiles and emptiness of the room. The sound returns as echo or resonance, because the reflexive surfaces cannot absorb the sound.

We can also compare this with producing the same sound in an air-tight room. You would notice that the sound seems dry or dead because the non-reflexive surfaces such as a padded wall, rug carpet, etc, absorb the sound without letting it resonate. We can then agree that the pharynx acts as a major resonator, and gives quality to sound.

The quality of sound that can be produced in singing or talking is dependent on the amount of air you are able to generate at a time. Also, the amount of air you can retain is dependent on the space available in your system. Someone who has not undergone a professional voice enhancement tutorial is bound to have a stiff respiratory system, which is configured naturally in every human being.

We can use a simple illustration to further explain this. If you blow air into a nylon bag, you will notice it has a quick limit and cannot retain much air because it is not flexible. On the other hand, if you blow air into a balloon, it will keep expanding effortlessly, and can retain more air because it is flexible. The purpose of aerobic exercise is to massage the respiratory system, to make it become flexible and expanded to accommodate more air.

Watch out for continuation of this subject in our next publication. I look forward to entertaining your questions and feedbacks on how this e-voice tutorial has been of help to you.

Best wishes

Maestro Vic Signature

Maestro Vic

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Forward questions bothering on this subject of discourse or on related topics to:

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Look out for the first edition premiering on 10th November, 2014.

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