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Phonation and Laryngeal Anatomy and Physiology. Nothing is ever said on the stage without a reason. There are no exceptions. Charles Waxberg.

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Phonation and Laryngeal Anatomy and Physiology

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phonation and laryngeal anatomy and physiology

Phonation andLaryngeal Anatomy and Physiology

Nothing is ever said on the stage without a reason. There are no exceptions. Charles Waxberg


The original use of the larynx was to keep us alive through breakfast. Its main function is stop solids and liquids from entering the trachea and choking us to death. Its secondary functions are to bear down, phonation and speech. The larynx of humans and great apes in infancy is higher in the neck so that they can breathe and suckle at the same time. In humans it descends before the age of two.

what the larynx is for
What the Larynx is for
  • To stop food/liquid from entering the lungs
  • To Bear Down
    • While Expelling
      • Defecation
      • Childbirth
    • While Lifting
what is phonation
What is phonation?
  • Laryngeal generation of voice
composition of the larynx
Composition of the Larynx
  • Composed of cartilage:
    • Cricoid Cartilage – Greek Name meaning ‘ring like’
    • Thyroid Cartilage – Greek Name meaning ‘Sheild like’
    • A pair of Arytenoids
    • Epiglottis
laryngeal anatomy anatomy uams edu anatomyhtml atlas html rsa3p2 html

1. Hyoid bone

2. Thyroid cartilage

3. Cricoid cartilage

4. Tracheal cartilages



cricoid anatomy uams edu atlas html rsa3p6 html
  • Anterior arch
  • Posterior lamina
  • Articular facet
thyroid cartilage
Thyroid Cartilage


1. Thyroid prominence

2. Cricothyroid ligament

3. Arytenoid cartilage

4. Corniculate cartilage

5. Vocal ligament

6. Vestibular fold

7. Cricoid cartilage

8. Articular facet for inferior

cornu of thyroid cartilage



  • Arytenoid cartilage
  • Corniculate cartilage
  • Aryepiglottic fold


The thyroid rests superiorly on the cricoid and attaches posterior-laterally at the cricoid’s inferior articulator facets. This attachment (the cricothyroid joint) hinges the cricoid and thyroid allowing their anterior sides to adduct, changing vocal fold length.


The arytenoid cartilages, two pyramid shaped cartilages rest on the cricoid at the cricoarytenoid joints and move in two distinct ways:

1.)To pivot (rocking) the posterior ends of the arytenoids away from each other, adducting the anterior ends or the reverse so the anterior ends abduct, and…

2.)Sliding the arytenoids on an anterior-posterior path.

Since the vocal folds are attached to the anterior ends of these cartilages (at the vocal process) any movement in them will change the folds’ shape, tension and relationship to each other thereby affecting phonation.


composition of the larynx con t
Composition of the Larynx (Con’t)
  • Composed of Muscle:
    • Extrinsic Laryngeal Muscles
    • Intrinsic Laryngeal Muscles
extrinsic muscle
Extrinsic Muscle

TWO Groups of Extrinsic Muscles:

  • Suprahyoids – Attach to points above the Hyoid (Jaw, Skull and Tongue) when they contract they raise or elevate the Larynx eg Swallowing
  • Infrahyoids – Attach to points below the Hyoid (one connects to the thyroid, however the others connect to the sternum and the scapula) when they contract they lower or depress the Larynx
intrinsic muscles
Intrinsic Muscles
  • Adductors – vocal folds are together
  • Abductors – vocal folds apart
  • Tensors - Stiffen
  • Relaxors - Relax
  • Lateral Cricoarytenoids
  • Interarytenoids
    • Transverse Arytenoids
    • Oblique Arytenoids



  • Posterior Cricoarytenoids
vocal folds
Vocal Folds
  • Muscle
    • External Thyroarytenoids – inserts into the muscular process on the Arytenoids and the Thyroid notch (shorten and adduct)
    • Internal Thyroarytenoids – inserts into the vocal process on the Arytenoids and the Thyroid Notch (shortens and stiffens), act antagonistically to the Cricothyroids
  • Membrane

  • False Vocal Folds – Ventricular folds
  • Laryngeal Ventricle
  • Conus Elasticus (interconnects the thyroid, cricoid and arytenoids cartilages)
  • Lamina propria (mucosal cover of the vocalis muscle) – can vibrate independently of the vocalis muscle
  • Vocal Ligament – the thread like collagenous fibers of the deep layer of the lamina propria
relaxors and tensors
Relaxors and Tensors
  • External Thyroarytenoid – Relaxor, shortens and adducts
  • Internal Thyroarytenoid – Tensor, shortens and stiffens
  • Cricothyroid Muscles – Tensor, lengthens and stiffens

Pitch is determined by Relaxors and Tensors

fundamental frequency
Fundamental Frequency

Phonation is made up of a fundamental frequency or Fo (the number of times the folds open and close per second-CPS) and harmonic multiples of the Fo (two times the Fo, three times, four times etc.) that fall in intensity (volume) in an inverse relationship as the harmonics rise in frequency or as the pitch rises the volume falls.

fundamental frequency1
Fundamental Frequency





  • Fundamental frequency (average: baby 500Hz, children 250-400Hz men 125Hz women 200Hz) is primarily affected by applying more or less longitudinal tension to the VF using:
      • Cricothyroids
      • Tension in the vocalis muscle


      • Adjustments in vertical tension – depressing or elevating the Larynx via suprahyiod and infrahyoid muscles
vocal fold tension elasticity and movement
Vocal Fold Tension, Elasticity and Movement
  • Thicker or thinner
  • Shorter or longer
  • Open or close
  • Intermediate positions
  • Stiff or elastic


Bronx Cheer or Raspberry– “the sound is that or air escaping in rapid bursts, not the sound of the lips moving” – Borden and Harris. Aerodynamic forces acting on the elastic body of the lips

admet aero dynamic myo elastic theory
ADMET – Aero Dynamic Myo-Elastic Theory

Glottal vibration is the result or refers to interaction between aero-dynamic forces and vocal fold muscular action.

  • Sub-Glottal Pressure
  • Bernoulli Effect – set vocal folds into vibration due to the elasticity of the folds (elastic recoil – the force which restores any elastic body back to its resting place)
  • Muscular Force – Muscles act to bring the folds together so they can vibrate, and muscles regulate their thickness and tension to alter fundamental frequency. Folds are FULLY or PARTIALLY ADDUCTED for phonation
bernoulli effect
Bernoulli Effect
  • An increase in velocity results in a drop in the pressure exerted by the molecules of moving gas or liquid, the pressure drops being perpendicular the direction of the flow

Schematic showing the Bernoulli Effect. The arrows indicate movement of pressure. As the air moves through a narrowing, inside pressure drops and outside pressure increases pulling the sides inward.

glottal cycle
Glottal Cycle
  • Vertical Phase Difference – vocal folds open at the bottom first. As top part opens bottom part closes. Wave like motion
chest modal register
Chest (Modal Register)
  • Low fundamental frequency
  • Vocalis muscle activity
  • Folds are thick and short
  • Low stiffness
falsetto register
Falsetto Register
  • Longer and thinner folds
  • Stiff folds
  • Small amplitude of vibration
  • Incomplete closure of the folds
  • Shutter like appearance – Vibrate more like strings
vocal onset
Vocal Onset
  • How we bring the folds together:
    • Attack
    • Breathy
    • Vocal Fry
    • Partial adduction – Whispering or falsetto register

(Note: Folds come together FULLY but without force for Modal register)

  • Lies in the stiffness of the folds resulting from lengthening and contraction of the thyroarytenoids, especially the vocalis portion