How the voice is designed

Understanding how the voice is designed is critical for voice teachers and can be helpful for students to understand as well.  The following is a brief description of what the human voice is composed of and how all of those components work together to create sound.  Hopefully understanding a little more about the voice itself will help to make you a better and more conscientious singer as well as serve as a little refresher course for me.

The body uses more than just the voice itself to create sound. Although the larynx and vocal folds seem to be how we can sing there is actually more to it than that.  In fact we can divide sound production into three basic categories.

The Motor:

Your Lungs and how are is pushed into the larynx and out of the mouth to produce sound.

The Vibrator:

your voice box or larynx which ever you want to call it.  This is where the vocal folds are and how the airstream from the lungs actually pulses to create audible sound. The vocal cords actually vibrate about 100 to 1000 times per second depending on the pitch.

The Resonator:

Basically the sinuses, mouth, nose, throat and anything that vibrates from or affects the air coming through the vocal folds.

On a more detailed look we can further explore the aspects of the voice more intricately as we study the exact muscles, ligaments, and cartilage in the larynx.

Cartilage and bone:voice, design

Cricoid cartilage

the only cartilage to completely encircle the trache. It is a place for various muscles, cartilages, and ligaments to attach and is critical in opening and closing the airway for singing.

Thyroid cartilage

the thyroid cartilage is also known as the Adams apple although its tilt is more prominent in men.  It helps to protect the vocal folds.

Arytenoid cartilages

The arytenoids cartilages hold the end of the vocal folds and therefore influence the position and tension of the vocal folds. They can glide, rock, and pivot, thus controlling the movement of the vocal folds.

Vocal folds or vocal cords

The vocal folds create channel for the airway and produce sound byt vibrating. They are a muscle covered by a mucosal covering.


Cartilage that covers that glottis to prevent food and water from getting into the lungs.  It does not affect the voice.

Hyoid bone

The only bone in the body not connected to another bone it serves as a place of attachment for the muscles of the neck, jaw and tongue.

Muscles located inside the larynx:muscles

Posterior cricoarytenoid

move the arytenoid cartilages to pull the vocal folds away from each other. These are the muscles that open the space to allow for breathing.

Lateral cricoarytenoid

move the arytenoids cartilages to bring the vocal folds together.


serves to relax and shorten the vocal folds. This is the muscle primarily responsible for creating chest voice.

Vocalis muscle

After the cords are brought together the vocalis muscles deterimines the exact shape, width and length of the glottis this allows the voice to change in pitch and quality it gooes directly to the vocal cords and allows fine adjustments.

Cricothyroid muscles

helps to tilt the thyroid forward to tense and stretch the vocal folds. This is the muscle primarily responsible for creating head voice.

Arytenoideus muscle

This is actually two muscles the Transverse arytenoid muscle and the Oblique arytenoid muscle which are joined by small fibres.  They pull the arytenoids together which in turn brings the vocal folds together. This is believed to be the muscle that creates “damping” by closing off a section of the vocal folds in the back of the larynx.





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