Are the vocal cords of professional singers wired in such a manner as to make their voice mellifluous?

No! The basic structure and function of the voice boxes of the singers are no different from the rest. The human voice box (larynx) is a reed instrument. The lungs are the bellows pumping an air stream through a single pipe, called the trachea. The larynx consists of two mucosal folds (vocal cords), one on either side.

Each vocal cord consists of a delicate muscle called the vocalis. The entire system has several muscles, which precisely control the dimensions. Thus the vocal cords can be lengthened, shortened, made lax, stiff, sharp, blunt, thick or thin. The cords can also slide towards each other, thus closing the laryngeal aperture.

The entire interior is clothed by mucosa, containing a rich network of glands, which secrete lubricating fluids. Thus the vocal cords function in a well-lubricated environment.

Air sucked in by the lungs is cut into various segments by the vocal cords. The number of such vertical segments produced in each second is the basal or fundamental frequency. This frequency number determines the pitch.

The throat, mouth and nose act as resonators. These resonators amplify the voice. This amplification may occur over the entire range of the tones or selectively emphasise certain frequencies only. Also, these chambers by altering their dimensions may also add multiples of the fundamental tones to arise. These multiples are called overtones. It is these overtones that add the richness that is perceived in the great voices. This is also called timbre.

Thus the perquisites for a great voice are. The chest, larynx and the mouth cavity should be large and free from any disease or injury . The muscular components must be capable of rapid and controlled mobility without excessive contraction. All the parts should be well lubricated. Obviously, several persons would fit the above bill.

But why then voices of great power and beautiful timbre are so scarce? This is so as some may have bad habits which may interfere with the lubricating mechanisms.

Finally, the vocal mechanism may be healthy and undamaged, but the precision with which it responds to the subtle and intricate demands made upon it is so often affected by the state of mind and emotions of the singer. Tranquility, confidence and responsiveness to the audience play a significant role in a great performance.

Source : The Hindu