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Voice and Resonance

How Your Voice Works

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To work, your voice needs:

  • a power supply, which comes from your breath
  • a sound source, which comes from your vocal cords
  • a sound resonator, which comes from your mouth and nose

Power supply

You talk or sing on air you breathe out (exhale). To feel how the power supply works:

  • Gently tighten (contract) the muscles just below your waist, pulling them towards your back as you breathe out.
  • When you need more air, relax these muscles and breathe in (inhale) through your nose or mouth.
  • Keep your shoulders and upper chest relaxed and maintain good posture.

Sound source

Your vocal cords vibrate to make sound. The vocal cords are small bands of muscle and other tissues inside the voice box (larynx). The air from your lungs makes them vibrate when the edges of the vocal cords come together. This is what makes the sound. To feel how your vocal folds work:

  • put your hand on your throat (under your chin) and swallow (you’ll feel your larynx move up and down)
  • say ‘ah’ (you’ll feel the larynx vibrate when you make the sound)

Resonator

The sound vibration moves through your mouth and nose to become louder. The sound quality will be:

  • louder if your mouth is more open
  • quieter and more ‘nasal’ if your mouth is more closed

Everyone has a different voice

The pitch (high to low), loudness, and quality of your voice are different from other people. Some reasons for this are that:

  • some vocal folds are longer, thicker, or more tense than others
  • throats, mouths, and nostrils are different sizes and shapes

During your entire life, your voice will change as your body changes. Your voice may be affected by:

  • hearing loss
  • your feelings (e.g., higher when excited)
  • changes in the environment (e.g., cold air)
  • your physical health (e.g., allergies)
  • dry mouth (e.g., not drinking enough water)​

Where to go get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:​

  • Your doctor, public health nurse, or other health provider
  • Your local health centre​

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