- Jaejeong & Jaeah Kim
The Science of Song
(Adele, an English singer-songwriter performing in Manchester)
We recently posted a larynx dissection video (which you can check out here), where we discussed the anatomy and functions of this fascinating organ that sits within your neck. If you didn’t know already, speech is created when the airflow from the lung passes through the vocal cords within your larynx. This is also the case for singing, where your vocal cords play a paramount role in producing your singing voice. Now, think of your favorite musical artist, whether it be Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, or Adele, and compare their singing voice to yours. Incomparable, right? So are these singers naturally talented in singing? Do they have vocal cords that are somehow different from the rest of ours?
In short, the answer is yes and no. First of all, no matter how much you train, it’s highly unlikely that you will be as good of a singer as Adele. Some people are born with a naturally good singing voice, whether that be due to the measurement of their mouth, throat, and/or nasal cavity. These are the human body’s natural resonators, and they are what help enhance the intensity and tone of someone’s singing voice. Therefore, many country singers with their unique nasal tone and Marilyn Monroe with her distinctive airy voice both have the precise measurements of their mouth, throat, and/or nasal cavity to thank.
However, it is important to realize that the basic anatomical structure of the larynx, the organ that plays the biggest role in determining someone’s singing voice, is almost identical in all humans, singer or not. Therefore, in regards to the vocal cords, the main difference between skilled singers and yourself lies in the ways you have trained your vocal cords. Trained singers tend to have false vocal cords that are retracted to either side, something that allows greater resonation and tonality in their singing voice. Luckily, the retraction of false vocal cords is something anyone can achieve with enough proper training. Basically, the only big difference between a singer’s larynx/vocal cords and that of a regular individual’s is the standards to which a singer holds his/her larynx to.
The biggest problem for most untrained singers lies in their inability to imitate, not perceive, correct notes. This problem is caused by the brain not being trained enough to give the larynx muscles instructions on how to control the tensions of the vocal cords to produce an on-pitch, full-bodied sound. Adding on, inefficient breathing also often contributes to an individual’s inability to produce correct notes. However, these problems can both be fixed with enough training, practice, and dedication– in short, anyone can become a great singer if they truly want to! Although the precise methods in which to improve your singing voice are beyond the scopes of this article, I hope this article at least encouraged any of you to-be-singers out there to not give up. Remember, genius is