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Singing With Vocal Cord Closure [Adduction]

Singing With Vocal Cord Closure [Adduction]

Vocal Cord Closure, or simply Adduction is an important part of healthy singing. You’ve probably heard terms like Open Throat Singing before and wondered how the concept really works when you know that you need good ‘closure’ to sing well? The truth is, Open Throat singing is the result of effective closure or resistance in every single aspect of the voice, from vocal cord closure, to narrowing of the vowel in the vocal tract, resisting recoil of the diaphragm, closing the soft palate up against the nasal passage to allow resonant space, partial closure of the supraglottis and many more elements that ‘close’ in your voice to achieve an ‘open’ sound. The truth is, classical terms like Open Throat often become quite contradictory and confusing when they are translated literally instead of being treated as the figure of speech they often are – Open Throat Singing requires closure.

How To Adduct Your Vocal Folds

The vocal cords are folds of membrane that stretch across to form closure across the larynx, vibrating in the pressurised airstream to create the resonance we identify as singing. Without effective and controlled closure, your vocal folds will not vibrate efficiently to create a powerful and resonant sound when you sing. Learning to adduct your vocal cords properly is one of the key elements to any healthy vocal foundation.

One of the most important aspects of vocal fold adduction is your vocal onset. An onset in singing is literally the onset of your resonance, the way that your resonance begins. Many singers struggle with an imbalance in their onset, singing with either a breathy “aspirate” onset and struggling with flat intonation and vocal strain, or a glottal onset where they blow their vocal folds apart with force, resulting in tension, strain, fatigue and a sharp intonation. The perfect onset sits in between these two imperfect onsets, neither releasing air before closure, or achieving closure before releasing pressurised air – essentially, a balanced onset that is coordinated between airflow and vocal fold closure.

A fantastic way to train your vocal onset is to practice a resonant crescendo on any pitch, then aim to start the note in the ‘centre’ of this resonant crescendo, with neither a breathy tail or a forceful onset. Balancing your onset is a key element of healthy singing and is one of the very first techniques you need to learn to achieve vocal fold closure.

What is a balanced onset?

When you release air across your vocal folds before they meet to create resonance, you are creating an aspirate “breathy” onset – meaning, airflow is escaping and being wasted before you achieve resonance. This is dangerous to the voice as it can dry out your vocal folds, as well and forcing an improper closure throughout a phrase, causing strain, tension and issues with pitch. On the flip-side, if you prematurely close your vocal folds, you will cause a glottal “hard” onset where air pressure blows your vocal folds apart in a muscular and forceful way, another damaging and risky onset.

Instead of releasing air or closing your folds prematurely, the key to achieving effective cord closure and a balanced onset is to coordinate the release of pressurised air with momentary adduction of your vocal folds. Not only does this balanced onset create a pleasant, controlled and ultimately healthy and powerful resonant sound instantly, it also aids in maintaining effective vocal cord closure throughout a phrase as your breath support and compression kick in to allow the vocal folds to vibrate continuously without strain or tension, while also allowing the powerful and resonant sound required for healthy singing.

Effective vocal fold adduction and balancing your onset are both intrinsic part of building an impressive singing voice with an extensive range, pleasant tone and most importantly, freedom from strain. Developing adduction and balancing your onset are two of the first aspects you need to develop in your vocal foundation.

A great place to start is this free Foundation singing lesson which will show you how to break through the frustrating and ineffective learning curve faced by many singers who haven’t yet built a strong foundation. Foundation for singing really is just like the rock solid Foundation required to build a house – the concrete slab that your walls (tone) and roof (range) are built upon.¬†Great singing requires a strong foundation!

If you have any questions about adduction or chord closure, please leave any feedback or questions below.

Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.

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