Voice Acting 101: An Introduction to the Anatomy of a Voice
Your voice is an instrument that powers you through the acting process. This post explains the anatomy behind it, so that you may understand what makes it unique.
5 min read
Have you ever come across people who’ve made a strong impression on you because of the way their voice sounds? Have you wondered how opera singers hit those impossibly
Have you ever come across people who’ve made a strong impression on you because of the way their voice sounds? Have you wondered how opera singers hit those impossibly high and low notes with equal ease?
You don’t need to frequent voice acting classes to understand this. Like fingerprints, your voice has a unique identity. Your natural voice has its own pitch, sound, and cadence. That’s why when someone calls out to you in a crowd, you can recognise the person by their voice, without having to look at them.
To understand why our voice sounds the way it does, we will need to understand the voice-body connection, also called Vocal Anatomy. Let us unpack some central questions of the same.
Why do I need to understand my vocal anatomy to discover my natural voice?
Our voice is linked to our body: what our physical habits are, where we hold tension and posture, etc. We all suffer from physical, emotional, and mental blocks. One of the first steps to unblocking our voice is physical awareness and relaxation. Slowly, we have to teach our mind and body to cooperate in dissolving our physical and mental inhibitions. This is where knowing our vocal anatomy can help us.
How is voice produced?
Voice production in the human body is divided into three major categories:
The power source for all living beings is breath. You are alive because your body breathes. Your voice rides on your breath. Your breath is driven by your lungs, the rise and fall of the diaphragm, and abdominal support.
If you’ve attended singing or voice acting classes, your teacher might have repeated, “Sing from your stomach” or “Pet se bolo.” What they are referring to is the diaphragm. When we allow our breathing organs to release and function from a free space, the diaphragm gets the space it deserves. What we mean by ‘release’ here is that there is no physical tension in those muscles. A diaphragm with released space around it can drop in (fall) and fly up (rise) freely. Breath is free. Therefore, the voice is too.
More breath leads to a fuller sound. With careful use of abdominal muscles, you can release more or less air, depending on the kind of sound you want to produce.
When we speak or sing, our vocal folds and larynx, i.e. the voice box, are at work. Our bodies can create sound only when we exhale. Voice / Sound is carried on the out-breath or exhalation. We have two vocal folds. When they meet, sound is created. When we are breathing, they are separately vibrating.
Resonators are the foundation of sound generation. Our skeleton is the largest resonator at our disposal. In simple terms voice resonators are cavities, voids surrounded by bones that resonate and therefore create a vibration. While our larynx / voice box helps us vocalise , others can hear it because of our resonators.
Some of the resonators in our head are – skull, nasal cavity, hard palate, soft palate, teeth, etc. Similarly, there are resonators in other parts of the body such as the chest and pelvic region.
These are air chambers that give your voice richness and tone, making it unique to you. When you have a cold, your nasal passage is cut off as your nose is congested and your voice sounds different. The tone of your voice becomes flat, without richness.
In the same way, you can explore other anatomical nuances about your voice with further investment. Want to learn more about your voice? Sign up now for our voice acting course titled ‘Expressive Voice and Speech.’ It is conducted by international Voice, Accent & Dialect Coach Hetal Varia!.
Ekalavya: Act, Create, Communicate
India’s best online acting and theatre training platform, an initiative of Drama School Mumbai (DSM). DSM is one of the best acting and theatre schools in India. At Ekalavya, all the courses are designed and delivered by highly trained DSM faculty and industry professionals. Currently available courses are Breaking Open Characters, Mastering Monologues, Expressive Voice and Speech and Expressive Body.