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Art Of Singing:
 Natural Tone Production

 Vocal Hygiene From The Musical Point Of View

 Peculiarities Of Tone Incident To Different Nationalities

 Anatomy, Physiology And Hygiene Of The Vocal-organs

 Hygiene Of Voice

 Read More Articles About: Art Of Singing

Anatomy, Physiology And Hygiene Of The Vocal-Organs

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

BY JOHN J. LEVBARG, M.D.

(Oto laryngologist)

ANATOMY

The Larynx is shaped like a box and is made up of muscular, membranous and cartilaginous substance; it is part of the neck, behind and be-low the base of the tongue. The upper opening of the larynx is covered by a lid known as the epiglottis. The lower aperture communicates with the trachea, with which the larynx is continuous.

The larynx is composed of nine cartilages, all of which are connected by substances known as ligaments. These cartilages are named as follows: thyroid, cricoid, arytenoid. Cartilages of Santorini and Wrisberg, and the epiglottis. The thyroid is the largest and the angle of its two wings forms the prominence in the front of the neck known as the Adam's apple.

The cricoid is ring-shaped and is situated below the thyroid. The epiglottis lies behind the tongue and is the cover of the upper aperture of the larynx. During respiration and singing it stands vertical, but during the act of deglutition (swallowing) it closes the laryngeal opening. This action is involuntary.

The arytenoids articulate with the cricoid cartilage and are the most important as regards the function of the larynx, because they dilate or make narrow the space between the true vocal cords. The true vocal cords are attached to these cartilages.

The vocal cords contain the inferior thyroarytenoid ligaments, which are elastic in character and run from the vocal process of the arytenoid to the inner surface of the thyroid cartilage. The space between both cords is known as the glottis. During phonation both cords approach each other and the space (glottis) becomes a straight chink. On taking a deep breath, the vocal cords separate from each other.

The muscles of the larynx consist of two groups: the external and the internal. The external depress or elevate the larynx and the internal by their action regulate the width of the glottis; they also regulate the tension of the vocal cords and the action of the epiglottis.

This important tube has two functions, namely, respiration and phonation. During quiet breathing the space between both cords forms a triangle. Above the epiglottis acts as a cover and prevents food from entering into the larynx. The important part played by the larynx is the production of voice. The vocal cords lie in the larynx like a double membranous reed-pipe. To produce a sound, the volume of the exhaled air must be of sufficient strength to cause the vocal cords to come together and vibrate. The vocal cords differ in the female and the male. The female cords are shorter and thinner and the male cords are longer and thicker.

Voice is produced by the vibration of the vocal cords due to the expiratory blast of air emitted from the lungs and the quality or resonance is reinforced by the resonating chambers, i. e., pharynx, mouth, nasal chambers and accessory cavities. In voice there are three properties to be found, namely, intensity, pitch, and quality. The intensity depends upon the amplitude of the vibrations of the vocal cords, the force of the air and the resonating cavities. Pitch depends upon the same elements as in any vibrating string; such as length, tension and thickness. In the female, the voice is of a higher pitch than the male because of the lesser length of the bands in the female.

The quality or timbre of the human voice is due to the fundamental and the overtones produced by those cavities of the head and the chest that act as resonance chambers.

The human vocal instrument is made up of: (1) motor-lungs ; (2) vibrator—vocal cords ; (3) resonator—mouth, pharynx, nasal and head cavities ; (4) articulator—tongue, lips and teeth; (5) thought—brain.

The Mouth.—The mouth is an oval-shaped cavity and consists of the vestibule and the cavity proper. The vestibule is the slit between the lips and the cheeks in front and the gums and the teeth behind. The cavity proper extends from the teeth in front to the fauces behind. The roof is formed by the palate and the floor by the tongue. The lips are the two fleshy folds which surround the orifice of the mouth, the cheek forming its sides and being continuous with the lips in front.

A great factor in producing good resonance is the oral cavity or mouth proper; its intrinsic and divers muscular actions have a marked effect on resonance. The function of this important cavity consists of three distinctive and important actions : (1) it is the beginning of the alimentary canal, in which the food is masticated; (2) it is the chief organ of taste; (3) it forms, with the pharynx, the resonator of articulate speech and singing. Resonance may be changed, especially by the tongue, cheeks, lips and soft palate.

The Palate.—The palate forms the roof of the mouth and consists of the hard palate in front and the soft palate behind. The hard palate is stationary, but the soft palate is movable and is suspended from the back of the hard palate, thereby forming an incomplete partition between the oral cavity and the pharynx. The conical-shaped structure which hangs down from the middle of the soft palate is called the uvula. The soft palate acts as a regulating valve to the important cavity and accessory cells and is in-dispensable to good resonance.

The Tonsils are two prominent bodies situated in the back of the throat one on each side between the front and back pillars.

The Pharynx lies behind the larynx and communicates below with the esophagus and above with the mouth and the nose.

The pharynx has three important functions: respiration, deglutition, and phonation. During respiration the air passing through the nose travels down towards the pharynx, and at the same time the back of the tongue approaches the soft palate; but in respiration through the mouth the tongue and soft palate withdraw from each other. In deglutition, the pharynx helps the swallowing of masticated food. During the pas-sage of the bolus of food through the pharynx, the nasal cavity is closed by the soft palate, the larynx is lifted upward and the epiglottis shuts the entrance to the larynx. The pharynx, with the help of the mouth, is also one of the chief resonators for speech and singing.

The Naso-Pharynx is a portion of the pharynx which lies behind the nose and above the level of the soft palate. The roof is dome-shaped and by its contour plays a very important part in resonance.

The Tongue is the chief organ of taste; it also plays a very active part in singing and speaking because of its intrinsic muscles. Its tip, very narrow in front, is free in the mouth and rests, when quiet, against the lower teeth. The base of the tongue is connected with a bone known .as the hyoid, and also with the epiglottis and soft palate by the pillars situated in front of the tonsils.

The Nose consists of two irregular cavities situated in the center of the face and separated by a wall known as the septum. This dividing partition consists of bone and cartilage. The nose is further divided laterally by three small bones into an upper (superior turbinate), middle (middle turbinate), and lower (inferior turbinate) cavity. The nasal fossae open behind into the naso-pharynx.

The proper channel for the admission of air is the nose. The use of the mouth for this purpose is a very pernicious habit and should be discouraged. The nose is not only an organ of smell, but it plays a very important rôle in respiration. Under healthy conditions the air in respiration passes entirely through the nose. This particular function of the nose is to warm the air and to filter out from it dust and other matter which would cause any irritation. This warming process is done by the small turbinate bones and by the septum. Mouth breathing, a very dangerous habit, causes dryness of the mouth and the pharynx ; the covering or mucous membrane usually becomes congested and inflammation is likely to follow. Mouth breathing may be permissible when singing fast phrases and when there is very little time to rest, but continuous mouth breathing may cause an inflammatory condition of the larynx, and by continuity may travel to the eustachian tubes and into the middle ear, thereby affecting the hearing. Without good hearing the controlling factor of correct attack and good production is lost.

Besides the functions of respiration and smell, the nose has another very important office as a voice-producing organ. By combining with the nasopharyngeal cavity, it is the chief resonator or sounding board of the voice. The vibrations set up in the dome-shaped nasopharynx and in the nose produce the characteristic quality in one's voice. Any obstruction above the soft palate causes an alteration in the voice. Many troubles pointing to the larynx and pharynx are caused by some disorder or obstruction in the nose.

The Accessory Nasal Cavities consist of the maxillary cavity (antrum of Highmore) in the upper jaw; ethmoidal cells in the upper turbinate bones; sphenoidal sinus in the back of the nose and the frontal cavities.

The accessory sinuses vary anatomically in different individuals; some have large cavities and others very small ones. The function of the various cells is to help to reinforce the fundamental tones to produce good quality or timbre.

The Lungs are two essential organs of respiration contained in the cavity of the chest, where they are separated from each other by the heart and large blood vessels. They are covered by a lining called the pleura which is characterized by its elasticity and lightness. The right lung is the largest and has three lobes; the left has two lobes.

By virtue of the inspiratory movements the air passes into the lungs. During this act the chest expands under the influence of the diaphragm and the inspiratory muscles. In inspiration all diameters of the chest are increased. Expiratory movements are for the most part passive in their nature.

The Diaphragm is the chief muscle of respiration and expulsion. It separates the chest from the abdominal cavity. When the muscular tissue of this great muscle is relaxed it is like a dome with its convexity upward. When the diaphragm contracts, the muscular tissue pulls down the central tendon, and at the same time becomes itself less convex and straighter. This descent of the diaphragm results in increasing the capacity of the chest. It is the chief muscle of respiration and it is very important that a singer should have control of this muscle.

The Ear is the organ of hearing and consists of three subdivisions : (1) external ear ; (2) middle ear; (3) internal ear. The external ear consists of the auricle and external auditory canal. The function of the auricle is to collect the sound waves and direct them through the external canal until they reach the drum; the vibrations in the external canal set up vibrations in the drum, this in turn sets in motion the small bones of the middle ear which are located here, and the vibrations are then transmitted to the perilymph, a liquid surrounding the internal ear.

The waves of the perilymph set up corresponding vibrations in the endolymph which fills the internal ear, and from there they are transmitted to the organ of Corti, or the organ of hearing, and finally from there they travel to the brain, where they are interpreted correctly.

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