There are three main components to the voice:
Initially, the breath provides the power to vibrate the vocal folds (found in the larynx). This 'buzz' is then enhanced through the vocal tract, the area between the vocal folds and your lips, which can create different sounds and vowels by the different ways it can be shaped.
The diaphragm is the muscle we use for breathing in. However, when we breathe out the diaphragm goes back to its 'relaxed' state. So this means there are other muscles we need to use to control our out-breath.
When breathing in, you should feel your ribs (especially your lower ribs) expanding. Also, you may feel your tummy expand (although not everyone does). Then, as you breathe out you should feel the rib contract inwards as the air expels, and you may feel your stomach squeeze in to help the out-breath.
Upper chest movement, where you can see your shoulders lifting, should be avoided when breathing in. If your shoulders are lifting you are likely to be using muscles in and around your neck. This may cause tension around your larynx which could lead to tightening and may affect the quality of sound that you produce.
Believe it or not, the first function of the larynx is not to make noise. It's to keep us alive!
Every time we swallow, the larynx rises and closes, the epiglottis comes down on top of it, and the food/liquid goes down to the stomach rather than into our lungs.
However, the larynx moves, ever so slightly, up and down depending on the pitch of the note. The higher the note, the higher the larynx position. This can mean that sometimes we end up fighting instinct on high notes as our brain is calling for us to swallow rather than sing. So it may mean that we just need to give ourselves permission to sing those high notes.
Within the larynx are the vocal folds (vocal cords). These create the buzz (the initial sound) and can be used in 'thick' or 'thin' fold. Most people have a lower (thick fold) and upper (thin fold) register, but it is not the case that one register ends and the next begins. There is a range where you can use either register.
Vocal registers is a complex topic and one that we will discuss in a later blog as the above is very much a simplification
It's here where I believe we can have the most fun! We can create different vowels through the positioning of our tongue. If we want to have a nasal sound, we can relax/drop our soft palate. We can create dark sounds by doing things like puckering our lips or bright sounds by smiling (retracting our lips).
We can also use the tongue, teeth and lips as articulators - making the different consonants and vowels so that people can hear the story we are singing about.
There is so much here to explore.
Looking after your body is key to looking after your voice. This means exercising, eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of fluid (preferably water) to stay hydrated, and ensuring you get a good amount of sleep each night.
If you are in the position where you are suffering from a sore throat or loss of voice, the ensure you follow the three S's: