3D Model of the Mouth

How We Produce Sound

How we Produce Sound

(by some nice person on the Internet, edited and tweeked by Kira)

To understand how the vocal cords work, we need a little information on how we produce sound. Its all about air and vibration.

When producing sound, the lungs blow air against vocal folds (another word for cords), that are closed, but more loosely than they would be during swallowing. Air pushes through the very small space between the vocal folds and in so doing, makes the covering of the vocal folds, knownas the mucosa, vibrate.

The vocal cords are located deep in the larynx (the house for the vocal folds or cords also known as the voice box). They are protected by a firm shell of cartledge and connecting ligaments.

Men and women have different vocal fold sizes. Adult male voices are usually lower pitched and have larger folds. The male vocal folds are between 17 mm and 25 mm (approx 0.75" to 1.0") in length. The female vocal folds are between 12.5 mm and 17.5 mm (approx 0.5" to 0.75") in length. They are pearly white in color - more white in women than in men.

Let's break the process down into small steps:

  • Air comes out of the lungs, through the trachea, and into the larynx
  • The air makes the vocal folds vibrate
  • When the vocal folds vibrate, they alternately trap air and release it
  • Each release sends a little puff of air into the pharynx; each puff of air is the beginning of a sound wave
  • The sound wave is enhanced as it travels through the pharynx; by the time it leaves the mouth, it sounds like a voice.
  • When we hold our breath, the vocal folds close, when we breath in the vocal cords are open and they vibrate as air passes through the larynx including when we speak or sing (known as phonation). They oscillate so quickly (opening and closing 440 times per second when singing the A above middle C).

Larynx Anatomy

Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.

~ Barbara Kingsolver

Vibration of the Vocal Chords

Looking at the Voice

Watching Vocal Chords Sing

Famous vocal Chords