There is so much mystery and misunderstanding around the topic of vocal cords. People seem to think they are this inexplicable thing and often don’t realize how fascinating they are. As a singer, understanding the vocal cords is an important part of learning your instrument, yet so few singers know how they work.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The anatomy of vocal cords
  • Cricothyroid muscle vs. thyroarytenoid muscle
  • The functions of vocal cord

John breaks down the anatomy and function of the vocal cords in easy-to-understand language to give you greater knowledge and control over your singing. So, if you’re curious about how your voice works, read on!

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Essential Parts of the Vocal Cords


The voice box and larynx are frequently used interchangeably for voice production. It is a tiny, triangular-shaped cartilage that produces voice and is situated at the base of the neck, right above the trachea. 

The larynx also contains the thyroid cartilage, a large Shield-shaped cartilage that protects the larynx and supports the vocal cords. Its primary role is to produce sound by vibrating the vocal cords.

Fibrous Tissue

Fibrous tissue is an important component of the vocal cord. It helps to support the vocal cord and prevents it from collapsing. Fibrous tissue also helps to protect the vocal cord from damage. 

Another one of its functions is to produce sound by vibrating when air passes through it. Fibrous tissue is also responsible for producing the resonance of the voice.

Thyroid Cartilage

Often referred to as Adam’s apple. Thyroid Cartilage is the biggest cartilage in the larynx. It lies at the front of the larynx and overlies the thyroid gland. It gives attachment to several muscles of the larynx, as well as to the vocal cords. 

You feel this cartilage whenever you swallow. It’s that little bump that goes up and down. So your vocal cords are right behind there.

Velar Airstreams

Velar airstreams are important in vocal cord function. The airstreams help to provide the necessary air flow for phonation and also help to shape the vocal cords for sound production. 

Velar airstreams are produced by air movement through the nose and mouth. The airstreams are then directed toward the vocal cords, which vibrate to produce sound. Velar airstreams are important because they help to create clear speech sounds.

Vocal Fold

The vocal cords create sound waves, also called vocal folds. These are two thin muscle tissue bands stretching across the inside of the larynx. A tiny, cone-shaped organ called the larynx is situated at the head of the trachea, directly behind Adam’s apple. When air moves through the vocal folds, they vibrate and create sound. The vocal cords’ tension determines the sound’s pitch.

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Retinoid Cartilage

The larynx or voice box cartilage is a form of retinoid cartilage. It is believed to affect the growth and operation of the vocal cords. It contributes to the strength and elasticity of the vocal cords. It also helps to protect the vocal cords from damage. 

Retinoid cartilage plays an important role in vocal cord development and function. Without it, the vocal cords would be less able to vibrate, resulting in a hoarse or muffled voice.

Mucosal Tissue

Mucosal tissue is found lining various body cavities, including the mouth, nose, and throat. It is moist and contains mucus-secreting cells. 

Mucous provides lubrication and protection for the underlying tissues. Mucosal tissue also contains ciliated cells. Mucosal Tissues are very important because lubrication is engine oil for the voice.

Vocal Ligament

A band of connective tissue called the vocal ligament wraps around the vocal cords. It helps to keep the vocal cords tense so they can vibrate more easily. The vocal ligament also plays a role in producing pitch by changing the tension on the vocal cords.

When the vocal ligament is tightened, the vocal cords vibrate more quickly, producing a higher pitch. When the vocal ligament is relaxed, the vocal cords vibrate more slowly, producing a lower pitch. Without the vocal ligament, the vocal cords would be unable to produce sound.

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Cricothyroid Muscle vs. Thyroarytenoid Muscle

The vibration of vocal cords produces the human voice. These two thin bands of muscle located in the larynx are called the cricothyroid muscle and thyroarytenoid muscle. The cricothyroid muscle is located at the front of the larynx and attaches to the thyroid cartilage. This muscle can tighten or loosen the vocal cords, which alters their pitch.

On the other hand, the thyroarytenoid muscle is located at the back of the larynx and attaches to the arytenoid cartilage. This muscle can make the vocal cords thicker or thinner, which alters their volume. Together, these two muscles work to produce the human voice.

The Function of Vocal Cord

The vocal cords are an essential part of the vocal apparatus. They are responsible for producing sound by vibrating as air passes through them. The vocal cords are located in the larynx, also known as the voice box. The tongue’s base and the trachea’s tip are connected by a long, thin tube called the larynx (windpipe).

The vocal cords are made up of two thin membranes: the false vocal cords and the true vocal cords.

The false vocal cords do not vibrate and are located above the true vocal cords. They act as a protective mechanism for the true vocal cords. The true vocal cords are thicker and situated below the false vocal cords. They vibrate to produce sound.

The five basic functions of the vocal cord are:

  • To produce sound
  • To protect the true vocal cords
  • To provide resonance for the sound produced
  • To absorb shocks from percussive airstreams
  • To help modulate expired air for speech or singing

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! We’ve explored how vocal cords work and what their function is. We hope this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions, please check out our resources page. If you want to improve your singing or speaking voice, we also have lessons available.

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