Knowledge of anatomy is not essential to be able to sing, but learning how the body works and the terminology used by singing teachers, pedagogists, lecturers and voice specialists will provide the aspiring singer with a greater understanding of the singing process.
This tutorial on the anatomy of the voice mechanism is aimed at the complete beginner who has little or no knowledge of basic anatomy. We are not medically trained and there are some excellent authoritative internet resources which go into this subject in far more detail listed below for convenience. Click Here to jump down to the related articles aimed at intermediate to advanced singers available at external sites.
***NEW***Vocal Folds / Vocal Cords provides an overview of the anatomy of the vocal folds and brief explanation of their function with pictures and video plus links to external resources.
Books on Anatomy and Voice
In Association with Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com
This is just a small selection of books and audio books available in the Books for Singers section containing full book and audio book list which includes exercises, music theory, vocalises, sheet music, audition repertoire, and tuition books for singers of all standards and styles.
The Structure of Singing
System and Art in Vocal Technique
by Richard Miller
Miller brings together the physical, technical, and artistic aspects of singing. He applies current findings in medicine, acoustics, phonetics, and speech therapy to the singer’s needs and demonstrates the scientific basis of exercises and vocalises, covering all major areas of vocal technique. Richard Miller is internationally known as tenor, teacher, editor, and writer. Professor of Singing at Oberlin College, he has authored English, French, German, and Italian Techniques of Singing.
Structure of Singing at Amazon UK
Structure of Singing at Amazon USA
Speech and Hearing Science
Anatomy and Physiology
by Willard R. Zemlin
The definitive book on the Anatomy and Physiology required for those studying Speech and Hearing Science
Speech and Hearing Science at Amazon UK
Speech and Hearing Science at Amazon USA
Anatomy for Speech and Hearing
by John M. Palmer
This workbook for speech and hearing science students includes line drawings of anatomical features to be labeled by the student.
Anatomy for Speech and Hearing at Amazon UK
Anatomy for Speech and Hearing at Amazon USA
Related Links & Articles
These are just a small example of the extensive links to online exercises and lessons we have available in the Singers Articles section, which contains complete listings of lessons, exercises or articles available on each site with direct links to the page (when not a framed site) plus answers to pretty much everything a beginner, intermediate, advanced singer or teacher needs to know! (All links open in a new window).
Excellent biomedical animations. License available for Speech-Language Pathologists, Schools, Teachers, Voice Therapists, Medical Practitioners and Educational Institutions on DVD or downloadable format.
Journey of the Voice
Provides information on the process of speech and singing complete with diagrams which include respiration, Support system for the voice (framework) with diagrams of spine, ribs, strenum, and pelvis, phonation, resonation, articlation and care of the voice by Eric Armstrong.
A Basic Overview of Voice Production
Article by Ronald C. Scherer, Ph.D. in .pdf format (adobe acrobat reader required) explores the differences between male and female voices with explanations of vocal registers, the aging voice, rough voice and basic voice production.
An Overview of Vocal Muscle Function
Message response by Lloyd W. Hanson describing the function of muscles controlling the vocal folds with explanations of the differences in function for falsetto, chest and head voice.
Anatomy of the Human Body
This link leads to details on the muscle structure of the larynx but also contains links back to the index for Henry Gray’s book.
Anatomy of the Larynx
Article on the Larynx and Phonation includes links to drawings and photographs of the larynx.
Anatomy of the Larynx
Informative article with images provided by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Animations of the Respiritory System
Excellent animated diagrams of the respiritory system including the functional zones and anatomical divisions, nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, lungs with quizzes. Very useful for teachers of children and visual learners.
the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Bone Table details every bone, its structure and a medical description of those structures plus nerves, veins and everything else that makes it all work!
Anatomy of the Spine
Excellent diagrams and description presented in lay terms by Southern California Orthopaedic Institute, includes details on the structure of the disc.
Anatomy Modules – TMJ Tutorial
The University of Washington Dept. of Radiology presents the Termporomandibular Joint, includes QuickTime movies, descriptions and diagrams including computed tomography and magnetic resonance pictures of the TMJ.
Atlas of Human Anatomy
Comprehensive collection of images representative of the human anatomy including bones, muscles, nerves
Cyber Anatomy Tutorials
A range of tutorials on anatomical structure complete with clear pictures in each section written by Donal Shanahan, of the Anatomy & Clinical Skills Centre, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Sadly the university has chosen to remove them from public access but students of the university and medical students may use them for study by logging in to their account.
Emory University Human Anatomy Course
An explaination of the Pharynx and Larynx with diagrams of the structures of the throat and how movement affects the vocal chords.
From Aerosmith to Pavarotti – How Humans Sing
How Does The Singer’s Voice Produce Those Amazing Sounds? is an article by Ingo R. Titze includes sound clips of singers Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Georgia Brown (8 octave Brazilian Singer), Rollin Rachele (Overtone Singer), Joan Sutherland (Opera Singer), Ethel Merman (Broadway Musicals) and Luciano Pavarotti (Italian Operatic Tenor) with overview of vocal production.
How the Larynx (Voice Box) Works
Article by Charles R. Larson, PhD at the Center for Voice Northwestern University provides a clear and authoratitive explaination of the voice mechanism with pictures and diagrams. Site contains several other voice related articles including Vocal Fold Histology by Ken W. Altman MD, PhD at the Center for Voice Northwestern University describes the unique multi-layered structure and vibratory behavior of the vocal folds.
How Sound Works
This article by Peter Elsea provides an easy to understand explaination of what sound is and how it works.
How The Body Works for Kids
Articles, quizzes, movies, activities and pictures for children on the human body and how it works.
Human Body and Mind
An excellent site from the BBC with interactive games and information on the human body
Provides a collection of interactive diagrams and information on the human body.
French site (no english) has some excellent diagrams of the larynx, respitory, hearing and resonation systems of the body.
Online Phonetics Resources
Links to sites that contain images, diagrams, course materials and information on the larynx and vocal tract.
Pharynx and Larynx
Photographs at the University of Michigan Medical School which also contains a Quicktime VR Movie of the Larynx.
Description and Application to Pop Music Styles write up of Midwest Voice Conference.
Phonetics Flash Animation Project
A collaborative effort of various departments at The University of Iowa which includes animated libraries of the phonetic sounds of American English, German and Spanish with animated articulatory diagrams, step by step descriptions and audio-video of the sound spoken in context aimed at students of phonetics, linguistics and foreign language. Also has a useful interactive diagram of the articulatory anatomy.
Respiratory System – Larynx
Pictoral cross sections of the larynx and vocal folds – click on the links provided and labels will appear, excellent for singing teachers and students, the page has a print facility ! GetBodySmart is an online examination of Human Anatomy and Physiology. This is an ideal start point for beginners with animated interactive diagrams that can be printed for further study or use in the classroom. (flash player required)
Respiratory SystemArticle by J. Stein Carter provides information and images of the respiratory system.
Sennheiser’s Vocal Workshop
Provides online articles and advice for singers on how the voice works with accompanying audio mp3 examples
Sound Patterns in Human Language: Phonation
Provides basic anatomy of the larynx including states of the glottis with photos of the glottis in action and explanations of whisper, murmer (breathy voice) and creaky voice.
The Human Instrument
Authorative article by Ingo R. Titze on how the human voice works. This article was originally published with illustrations in Scientific American magazine (January 2008 edition) but this version is text only.
The Physics of Singing
Article with diagram and photographs and link to video clip
Types of Phonation
Provides explainations with diagrams and audio examples on how the larynx works in various types of phonation, including whisper, creak, breathy, harsh & falsetto. Visit the main site EGG & Voice
article on vocal anatomy by vocal coach Kristina Seleshanko.
Voice and Swallowing Center
College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Image and Video gallery contains a wonderful selection of still photographs and videos of the voice mechanism including images voice and swallowing in its various stages of disease, treatment and cure.