Like so many other animals, the human being is capable of emitting sounds through the interaction of several physiological organs involved, also, in other primary functions such as breathing or swallowing. The vocal apparatus is that complex system by which air is transformed into sound and sound into emotions.
In Espai Coriveu we have prepared for you a series of two articles, rigorous but for easy reading, with all the information about this complex mechanism that, in the end, is the main tool of a singer.
What is and how it works the fonador appliance
Speaking or singing are articulation exercises in which several components are involved. We have already commented that the raw material of all this process is the air. Now well, in his transformation towards a sound capable of communicating directly (the words) or indirectly (the melodies) there is an entire chain process that requires putting up these four mechanisms:
1. Respiratory mechanism
The human voice is, in essence, air. Therefore the primary organs for achieving any sound are exactly the same as you use to breathe: diaphragm, lungs, intercostal and abdominal muscles, bronchi and trachea.
From the technical point of view, these organs are called infraglottical cavities because they are located in an area of the human anatomy that isbelow the glottis, limiting with the system of phonation.
The process of breathing is executed in two phases:
Inspiration: when we air the intercostal muscles and diaphragm contract pulling down the lungs and rib cage causing the increase in volume so you can get a greater amount of air.
Exhalation: during expiration the intercostal muscles relax, the ribs fall down and the diaphragm, also relaxed, forces the ribcage capacity to decreas while the air is pulled out of the lungs.
2. Mechanism of phonation
The laryngeal or glottal cavity , formed by the larynx and vocal cords, is the place in which physically the sound is produced. It is a key area of the vocal apparatus , because on one hand allows the entry and exit of air in the lungs, and the other determines the particular characteristics of a person's voice. It is here where the vocal cords and, therefore , the place where important nuances are drawn as the tone or intensity of sound.
The larynx is composed of a series of cartilage (cricoid, thyroid and arytenoid) that they vary in size depending on the age and sex of the person. This factor has implications for the size of the vocal cords: the bigger the larynx, the greater will the vocal cords be and, as a result, more bass sounds will be produced. Precisely for this reason, the voice of the children is more acute: their larynx is smaller and so are his vocal cords.
Apart from the cartilages, the vocal cords and the larynx, at this point in which the exhalation makes that the air becomes a sound, numerous muscles are involved. In a simplified way, what happens is that the air from the lungs rises towards the glottis, that it is closed at the time. The increase in pressure in the subglottic area causes the opening of the vocal cords through contraction movements allow you to pass a greater or smaller amount of this air, what determines the resulting sound is lower or higher.
3. Mechanism of resonance
Up to this point all we have achieved is to produce a basic sound. An elementary transformation of that air that still lacks special treatment to become the voice or melody of a song.
It is in this area of the vocal apparatus in which occurs the resonance mechanism, or what is the same, amplification, the control and the modulation of the phonatory blow. In this process are involved three parts of the facial anatomy:
Nasal cavity: it is a rigid cavity and can not be resized. In the process of phonation its most important role is to allow the entry of air into the lungs.
Oral cavity: sounds collide against the walls of the mouth and this, while you can easily resize, is what is in charge of its modulation.
Pharynx: the pharynx is responsible for distributing the air coming from the larynx. It is also a very particular tube since it has the ability to modify their size and thereby determine the timbre of the voice.
4. Articulator mechanism
And finally, but no less important, are the articulator organs of the supraglottic cavity, in a less technical way, the palate, tongue, the teeth, the lips... In final, everything that makes up what is known in anatomy as oral cavity.
It is in this part of the fonador device where the sounds acquire its latest shades, where the air is transformed in words and those words in emotions. The tongue, that element so versatile and moving, is that, next to the lips, participates in the production of all the phonemes needed for the human communication.
We leave you a video to illustrate the information and thus ended the first part of our article on the vocal apparatus. If you have found it interesting, continue reading the second part, It contains detailed information about what we must know as singers about the vocal apparatus and its relationship with the song.
Have a great day!!