Lifestyle Feature: A Healthy Voice – The Vocal Fold—Understanding What Makes Harmonic Sounds In Our Bodies By Terrance Bell

Singers love to produce great harmonic sounds. No matter what genre of music one sings or love, we are always listening for great harmony. It pretty much defines if a singer is good or not.

But do we understand what makes these nice harmonic sounds in our bodies? Do we know what causes these sound variations? How and why men and women make different pitch variations?  They’re called vocal folds, commonly known as vocal chords.

The vocal folds (vocal cords), in combination with the articulators, are capable of producing highly intricate arrays of sound. The tone of voice may be modulated to suggest emotions such as anger, surprise, or happiness. Singers use the human voice as an instrument for creating music.

The vocal folds generate a sound rich in harmonics. The harmonics are produced by collisions of the vocal folds with themselves, by recirculation of some of the air back through the trachea, or both. Some singers can isolate some of those harmonics in a way that is perceived as singing in more than one pitch at the same time—A technique called overtone singing.

Wikipedia’s definition and description of vocal folds:

The vocal folds, also known commonly as vocal cords, are composed of twin infoldings of mucous membrane stretched horizontally across the larynx. They vibrate, modulating the flow of air being expelled from the lungs during phonation.

Open during inhalation, closed when holding one’s breath, and vibrating for speech or singing, the folds are controlled via the vagus nerve. They are white because of scant blood circulation.

Vocal folds are located within the larynx at the top of the trachea. They are attached posteriorly to the arytenoid cartilages, and anteriorly to the thyroid cartilage. Their outer edges are attached to muscle in the larynx while their inner edges or margins are free. They are constructed from epithelium, but they have a few muscle fibers in them, namely the vocalis muscle which tightens the front part of the ligament near the thyroid cartilage. They are flat triangular bands and are pearly white in color. Above both sides of the vocal folds are the vestibular folds or false vocal folds that have a small sac between the two folds.

Situated above the larynx, the epiglottis acts as a flap that closes off the trachea during the act of swallowing to direct food into a separate tube behind the trachea called the esophagus. If food or liquid does enter the trachea and contacts the vocal folds because of a failure of this safeguard, it causes a cough reflex to expel the matter in order to prevent choking.

Defining the below words will help you better understand different features of your voice (vocal folds).

  1. Vagus nerve
  2. Vocal fold nodule and polyps
  3. Larynx
  4. Mucous membrane
  5. Phonation
  6. Oscillate
  7. Sonorous tones
  8. Vertebrate trachea
  9. Epiglottis
  10. Esophagus

Here are 2 vocal dieting tips for singers and speakers! 

  1. Anything eaten can have an effect on the vocal cords. Even medicines can have a significant effect on the voice and even increase the risk of a hemorrhage on the vocal fold. Some irritants to look out for include antihistamines and diuretics, dairy products, drinks with caffeine, alcohol and nuts (I have a personal problem with this one because I love peanut M&M’s, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts).
  1. The best thing a singer and/or speaker can do for their voice is to drink a lot of water. Avoiding foods and drinks that cause excess mucus or acid are also essential to smooth speaking and/or singing.

Although the tasks will never be concluded, my endeavor is to supply humanity with great knowledge and understanding of what A Healthy Voice represents and exemplifies.

“A Healthy Voice”…. Maximizing your vocals!

Terrance Bell is an accomplished singer, songwriter, producer, clinician, psalmist, and philanthropist living in Houston, TX whom hosts vocal health workshops. For more information please visit,

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