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How Do We Produce Sound for Singing and/or Speaking?

In singing, there must be a beginning point in order to gain a level of excellence. This can be called the “fundamentals,” “basic skills,” “basic mechanics,” or “groundwork.” All of these terms refer to baseline skills necessary to create an efficient and beneficial foundation to build upon. Prior to examining the basic mechanics, it is essential to understand the systems used to create “sound production.” These basic systems are the same no matter what style of music a singer is singing.

Let us briefly review the basic systems and physiology of sound production. The creation of basic sound incorporates 3 main systems — (1) the respiratory system, (2) the phonatory system, and (3) the supraglottic vocal tract or resonance tract. Along with this is also the articulatory system. The impulse for making sound begins in the cerebral cortex of the brain, and then information is sent through 2 branches of the 10th cranial nerve to the appropriate laryngeal muscles. During phonation, the ear picks up sound produced by the vocal system and regulates the shaping of the vocal tract to sculpt the sound. This feedback system is used by the brain to try to match the actual sound of the voice with the sound intended by the communication centers of the brain that generate the voice.

Sound production physiology. Courtesy of Blue Tree Publishing

From the chapter: “Artistic Vocal Styles and Technique.” In M. Benninger, T. Murray, & M. Johns The Performers Voice, (pp. 51-59). Plural Publishing, 2nd edition, August 2015.

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