Glottal Attack

glottal attack

There have been several queries from singers seeking advice on glottal issues. We are not medically qualified therapists and the following information is a simplified personal overview for the benefit of our younger or less technically aware users. Further articles from more authoritative personnel are provided in the related links at the end of the article.

The ‘Glottis’ is an opening situated at the upper part of the windpipe and between the vocal chords. It affects the modulation of the voice by contracting or dilating. During the swallowing action, it is covered by an erect cartilage at the root of the tongue known as the ‘Epiglottis’.

‘Glottal Stop’ is the sound produced by the sudden explosive release of breath from behind the closed glottis and the term ‘Glottal Attack’ describes the percussive pulse from vocal cords as in a slight grunt. Three types of glottal attack are commonly recognised: breathy, normal and hard.

‘Hard Glottal Attack’ describes the action of the vocal folds slamming together quickly and forcefully before sound begins, causing an increase in muscular tension in the laryngeal area. It is considered a form of vocal abuse which can occur during excessive throat clearing, coughing or at the beginning of vowel sounds and frequent use can cause damage to the vocal folds (also referred to as vocal chords) including lesions and nodules.

Techniques employed by voice and speech therapists to eliminate hard glottal attack include:

Chant Talk
Similar to a religious chant, this technique is performed using a soft glottal attack (SGA) along with a recorded voice or the therapist, who gradually introduces normal speech as the patient progresses.

Chewing Technique
Practice the motions of chewing in an exaggerated manner and then gradually, over time, add random sounds, words, phrases, sentences, and conversation while slowly reducing the degree of exaggeration of the mouth movements. This exercise helps to release excess and produce natural tension in the vocal tract and laryngeal area and if done correctly encourages mouth opening and reduction of tensions in the jaw.

Yawn Technique
Practice yawning accompanied by a vocal sigh. This helps to produce a relaxed sound (often referred to as phonation) by creating normal muscular tension in the laryngeal area.

Laryngeal Massage
Massage is used to help reduce tension and the voice is no exception! A therapist will show the patient the correct method of massaging the laryngeal area on the neck to aid in reducing muscular tension.

/m/ Warm Up
To warm up the vocal folds, the consonant ‘M’ is spoken or sung before words. This helps to produce a gentle airflow through the larynx as the sound (phonation) begins. Read Sharon and Kellie’s article on eliminating hard glottal attack, which has some excellent examples of exercises used with clinical patients.

Related Links

These are just a small example of the extensive links to online articles and health issues we have available in the Vocal Health Links section (All links open in a new window).

Hard Glottal or Aspirate Attack
article from Harmonize in .pdf format.

An overview of phonation including two of the most common types of glottal attacks, the soft attack and the hard attack complete with diagrams and articles on laryngeal (glottal) adjustments, laryngeal control, and voice source variations.

Vocal Rise Time and Perception of Hard Glottal Attack
Article from Rahul Shrivastav Indiana University Bloomington providing an overview including graphs and research findings.

Voice Treatment
An overview of treatment approaches and treatments by various voice therapy contributors. Includes altering tongue position, ear training, changing loudness, eliminating abuse and hard glottal attack, voice rest and other information.