Vocal teachers, speech pathologists, ENT doctors, laryngologists and other specialists use a variety of terms, both medically and metaphorically, to aid in their communication with a vocalist. Unfortunately, many of these terms are unfamiliar to the general public and are inadvertently misused or modified due to various, and sometimes conflicting, origins.

As you can imagine, this can create a frustrating stir of confusion for a vocalist in search of answers! In our library of vocal-related terms below, it is not our intention to correct or contradict anyone else’s use of a word, but rather to provide an educational resource of (mostly) literal-translations for a consistent means of communication throughout our website and products.  Several of the terms also include an image with the term highlighted in blue. Please feel free to contact us if there are any specific words or terminology you would like us to add as well.

Vocal Glossary

Abdominal Muscles

(ab-dom-uh-nl): Abdominal muscles include the external obliques, internal obliques, transversus abdominis, and rectus abdominis located in the abdomen. They are used to stabilize the body in various positions and work in conjunction with the diaphragm and intercostal muscles for breath management.

LIBRARY_abdominal

Abduction

(ab-duhk-shuhn): The action of separating the vocal folds.

Adduction

(uh-duhk-shuhn): The action of bringing the vocal folds together.

Approximation

(uh-prok-suh-mey-shuhn): The act of bringing the vocal folds close together, from abduction (folds apart) to adduction (folds together) for phonating.

Articulatory Muscles

(ahr-tik-yuh-luh-tohr-ee): The articulatory muscles refer to the orbicularis oris and the surrounding expression muscles (levator labiis, zygomaticus, risorius, depressors, and mentalis) of the lips, the tongue and tongue muscles (palatoglossus, styloglossus, hyoglossus, genioglossus, and geniohyoid), and the mastacian (temporalis, masseters, and pterygoids) and mandibular depressors (digastrics, mylohyoids, and platysmas) of the jaw.

Arytenoid Muscles

(uh-rit-n-oid): Muscles of the larynx that swing and pivot for approximation (posterior cricoarytenoid, lateral cricoarytenoid, and transverse arytenoid muscles), as well as adjustments related to the thickness of the vocal folds.

Cartilage

(kahr-tl-ij): A tough, elastic connective tissue in various parts of the body, such as the joints, outer ear, and larynx.

Cricothroid

(krahy-koh-thahy-roid): Muscles that interact with the thyroarytenoid and vocalis muscles to adjust tension of  the folds for pitch (frequency) control by tilting the thyroid cartilage forward.

LIBRARY_cricothyroid

Diaphragm

(dahy-uh-fram): Dome shaped muscle that divides the abdomen from the thorax (chest), which is primarily used for inhalation and has an antagonistic relationship with the abdominal muscles for a controlled exhalation.

LIBRARY_diaphragm

Epiglottis

(ep-i-glot-is): A leaf-shaped cartilage, covered in mucous membrane, that moves to cover the glottis and protect the larynx from foods or liquids when swallowing.

Epithelium

(ep-uh-thee-lee-uhm): Thin outermost layer of the vocal folds, which helps protect them from abrasion caused by the rapid movement of air when breathing and phonation.

Glottis

(glot-is): The opening between the vocal folds at the upper part of the larynx.

Hyoid Bone

(hahy-oid bohn): A U-shaped bone at the base of the tongue from which the larynx is suspended.

External Intercostal

(ik-stur-nl in-ter-kos-tl): Muscles situated between the ribs that expand the lungs and assists with inhalation.

LIBRARY_externalintercostal

Internal Intercostal

(in-tur-nl in-ter-kos-tl): Muscles situated between the ribs that compress the lungs and assists with exhalation.

LIBRARY_internalintercostal

Larnx

(lar-ingks / also known as “voice box”): Located at the top of the trachea, with walls of cartilage and muscle, which house the vocal and vestibule folds. It is responsible for assisting in swallowing, respiration, phonation, and used as a pressure release valve.

LIBRARY_larynx

Lateral Cricoarytenoid

(lat-er-uhl krahy-koh-uh-rit-n-oid): Muscles located inside the larynx, partially responsible for bringing the vocal folds together (adduction).

LIBRARY_lateralcricoarytenoid

Lip Muscles

(lip ik-spresh-uhn): Lip muscles consist of the orbicularis oris, which encircles the oral cavity, and their adjacent muscles involved in expression and the opening and closing of the oral cavity. This includes the levator labiis, zygomaticus, risorius, depressors, and mentalis muscles.

LIBRARY_lipmuscles

Mandibular Depressors

(man-dib-yuh-ler dih-pres-er): The digastric, mylohyoid, and platysma muscles connected to the mandible (jaw), which play a role in the coordination and movement of the jaw for chewing, facial expressions, tone, and diction.

LIBRARY_mandibulardepressors

Mastication Muscles

(mas-ti-kay-shuhn): Temporalis, masseters, and pterygoid muscles related to the jaw, primarily used to lift the jaw for chewing and assists in the coordination of facial expressions, tone, and diction.

LIBRARY_mastacianmuscles

Mucous Membrane

(myoo-kuhs mem-breyn): Thin sheets of tissue exposed to outside air that secrete mucous to prevent friction and infections.

Nodes

(nohds): Nodes are a mass of callous-like tissue that grows on the vocal folds due to excess friction due to poor muscle behavior and misuse.

Oblique Arytenoid

(oh-bleek uh-rit-n-oid): Muscles located inside the larynx, partially responsible for bringing the vocal folds together (adduction).

LIBRARY_obliquearytenoid

Passaggio

(pas-sah-ji-oh / also known as “bridge”, “transition”, “modal”, and “mix”): The process of transitioning from one vocal register to another.

Pharynx

(far-ingks): The portion of the throat that extends from the larynx to the nasal cavity in three sections; laryngopharynx (closest to the larynx), oropharynx (the back of your throat when looking into a mirror), and nasopharynx (highest part of throat which opens into the nasal cavities). These are the primary spaces for cultivating the tone of your voice.

LIBRARY_pharynx

Phonate

(foh-neyt): Sound that is created by airflow putting the vocal folds into motion, known as a “mucosa wave”. The vibration of the folds pushes air molecules around, creating frequencies that the human ear and brain interprets as sound. Phonation includes speaking, singing, crying, screaming, laughing, and grunting.

Pitch

(pich): A selected frequency (vibrations per second) while singing.

Polyps

(pol-ips): Polyps are a blister-like growth on the true folds caused by poor muscle behavior and misuse of the vocal folds.

Posterior Cricoarytenoid

(po-steer-ee-er krahy-koh-uh-rit-n-oid): Muscles located inside the larynx, responsible for separating the vocal folds (abduction).

LIBRARY_posteriorcricoarytenoid

Resonator

(rez-uh-ney-ter]): The part of an instrument that contributes additional vibrations of resonance. For the vocal-instrument, is it primarily the pharynx, mouth, and nasal cavities.

Soft Palate

(sawft pal-it): Muscle tissue in the rear section of the roof of the mouth designed to channel air to the mouth or nose.

Superficial Lamina Propria

(soo-per-fish-uhl lam-uh-nuh proh-pree-uh / also known as “SLP”, “cover”, or “Reinki’s space”): Layers of the vocal folds that vibrate and produce sound, located between the epithelium (outermost layer) and the vocalis muscle (innermost layer). It is primarily made up of extremely lubricated and elastic fibers with a high affinity to water.

LIBRARY_superficiallaminapropria

 

Thyroarytenoid

(thahy-roh-uh-rit-n-oid): An intrinsic muscle of the larynx that decreases the tension of the vocal folds in an antagonistic relationship with the cricothyroid muscles for pitch control.

LIBRARY_thyroarytenoid

Thyroid Cartilage

(thahy-roid kahr-tl-ij): Outer shell of the larynx, often refereed to as the “Adam’s Apple”.

Tone

(tohn): Resonant patterns (formation of amplified frequencies) created primarily by the shape of the spaces above the larynx (vocal tract).

Tongue Muscles

(tuhng): The tongue muscles consist of the tongue (a muscular organ covered with mucous membrane) and affiliated muscles that aid in mastication, swallowing, speech, and vocal tone. These muscles include the palatoglossus, styloglossus, hyoglossus, genioglossus, and geniohyoid.

LIBRARY_tonguemuscles

Trachea

(trey-kee-uh): A windpipe connecting the lungs to the larynx.

Transverse Arytenoid

(trans-vurs uh-rit-n-oid): Muscles located inside the larynx, partially responsible for bringing the vocal folds together (adduction).

LIBRARY_transversearytenoid

Vestibule Folds

(ves-tuh-byool fohlds / also known as “false folds”): A pair of thick folds above the vocal folds in the larynx, designed to manage air pressure, not vibration.

Vocal Folds

(voh-kuhl fohlds / also known as “true folds” and “vocal cords”): The bottom set of folds in the larynx used for phonation (speaking and singing). These folds are made up of several layers; epithelium, lamina propria (superficial, intermediate, and deep), and the vocalis muscle.

LIBRARY_vocalfolds

Vocal Registers

(voh-kuhl rej-uh-sters): There are five possible vocal registers in the vocal instrument: fry, chest, head, falsetto,  and whistle. Each register is defined by the position of the vocal folds and its interaction with airflow and resonators. The actual number of qualified registers is often debated among various vocal pedagogies. As we continue to update this page, we will add a description for each register for more clarity.

Vocalis

(voh-kuh-lahyz): Muscles within the vocal folds that cause them to thicken when contracted. They are the medial part of the thyroarytenoid muscle and play a role in resisting airflow, pitch control, and vocal register positioning.

LIBRARY_vocalis

GLOSSARY_Anatomy