Inside Singing

These are the vocal folds of a woman singing. Human speech (and song) results from interactions between elastic muscles and aerodynamics. As we exhale, the vocal folds are initially pushed apart, then the flow of air moving past creates low pressure (via the Bernoulli effect) that helps pull the folds together. As the folds close, high pressure again forms to force them open. This sets a cycle of oscillation or vibration that produces sound. To change the pitch of the sounds we create, we can lengthen or shorten the vocal folds or change their tension. In this respect, they behave somewhat similarly to the strings of a musical instrument. If you’d like to admire more vocal folds in action, check out this endoscopic video for four singers performing together. (Image credit: LinguaHealth, source)

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