In my post “What is this thing…” I tried to explain how we make our “voice”.

Lets take a closer look at this “voice” and understand what its sound is exactly made of.

As I wrote : When we sing an A4 (440 Herz) our vocal folds will vibrate 440 times a second. 

Now, what is very interesting for us singers,  is that the sound that comes into being consists not only of a ground note (fundamental) but also of overtones (harmonics). 

The ground note is the most present and determines the pitch of the tone we sing (in this case 440 Herz). The frequencies of the overtones are multiples of the frequency of the ground note. 

By changing the shape of our resonance box (throat and mouth, vocal tract) we can amplify certain overtones and by doing so we can give our voice specific colors, like vowels. 

We change the shape of our resonance box all the time when we speak and sing. It is funny and very important at the same time to realize that unlike a violin for instance our instrument has a flexible resonance box!!  The human voice is really an unique instrument. 

The most obvious way we use the flexibility of our resonance box is when we articulate. If we articulate we change the shape of our resonance box by adjusting the position and shape of the tongue, the lips, the soft palate, the jaw, the height of the larynx, or a combination of these.

Lets practice a little bit together: When you say  “AA” your tongue will be in a low position. When you say “IE” the mid/front of your tongue will be in a high position. It is because of the fact that a part of your tongue is in a high position that you were able to pronounce an “IE” . By changing the position of your tongue, the shape of your resonance box changes and that amplifies certain overtones which makes your voice sound like “IE” . 

Now say “AA” and then “OO” ; your lips will protrude and that is how you could pronounce the “OO”. And again, changing the form of the resonance box in a specific way, certain overtones will be more present in your voice which now sounds like “OO”.

And an extra for the Dutch/German pronunciation:  say “IE”—“UU” (as in “muur” and “über”)

We already know that for an “IE” the mid/front of the tongue must be in a high position. When we pronounce the “UU” after we pronounced the “IE” we can feel that our tongue is still in a high position. But we also feel that our lips are protruding. So to pronounce a correct “UU” we need a high tongue ánd protruded lips. That is the shape of our resonance box we need.

Now say “NG”: your soft palate will come down (and opens the nasal cavity) while the back of your tongue goes up and touches the soft palate. That is the way to pronounce the “NG”. And to make it a little bit more complicated: say “NGAA” but stay close to the “NG”-sound; now we have a nasal “AA” thanks to the fact that the soft palate is still in quite a low position.

This was only about articulation and about the fact that the different positions of your tongue, lips and soft palate have a very big influence on your sound. 

But there is much more to explore !  We have also a larynx we can move upwards and downwards, we have cartilages in the larynx that can move, we have muscles in the throat that can narrow or widen our throat, we have an epiglottis (Ary epiglottic sphincter) that can move and help us make “Twang”, a jaw that can move forward and backwards….are you getting dizzy already ?  

If I tell you that this flexibility not only affects your articulation but also very véry much your sound…then I think you will be happy to read more.

Lets do it step by step. Partly I will tell you things that you can also find in the technique of EVT, and partly I will tell you things you might have never thought about. 

2 antwoorden
  1. Ingrid Smeenk
    Ingrid Smeenk zegt:

    Dear Lieve , Very interesting read about how we can change the shape of our resonance box and can amplify the overtones.
    I tried to do make the “IE”en”UU”sound. I read in your article that the mid/front of the tongue should be in high position . I feel the back and mid of my tongue in high position and the tip of my tongue against my lower teeth . Is this correct or am I doing something wrong?
    Kind regards
    Ingrid Smeenk

    • Lieve Geuens
      Lieve Geuens zegt:

      Dear Ingrid, I think you are doing very well.
      There can be misunderstanding about what is the front and the back of the tongue. What in the Evt is called the back is for most scientists the front (or mid-front) because behind (more towards the throat) the part of the tongue that will move upwards when we say IE there is another part that can come upwards when we pronounce the “NG” and even more towards the back of the throat there is another part of the tongue that we will lift (and press against our soft palate) when we pronounce the “K”…


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