Resonance & Singing


The human voice is considered partly a wind instrument but has functionalities of a string instrument.

Singing, as well as speaking, results from three components of voice production: voicing, resonance, articulation. In this blog we will dive into the study of Resonance. 


What is Resonance?

McKinney defines vocal resonance as “the process by which the basic product of phonation is enhanced in timbre and/or intensity by the air-filled cavities through which it passes on its way to the outside air.” 

So, in a nutshell, sound is produces by the vibrating vocal folds and this sound wave is then enhanced by our pharynx, oral cavity and nasal cavity. 

The voice, like all acoustic instruments such as the guitar, trumpet, piano, or violin, has its own special chambers for resonating the tone. 

Once the tone is produced by the vibrating vocal folds, it vibrates in and through the open resonating chambers, or the vocal tract.

The various resonances can represent vocal colors. The objective is to have command of all the colors of the spectrum, which allows greater scope of emotional expression. 

How does the Resonance work for singing

The sound generated by the vocal folds is modified by the vocal tract resonators.

Acoustic resonators are filters and when we speak, a talker’s vocal tract alters and shapes certain acoustic characteristics. This can be compared to a filtering system where changes in the shape of a tube will lead to changes in the sound outcome. 

Voiced sounds are amplified and modified by the vocal tract resonators (the larynx, pharynx, oral cavity, and nasal cavity).


Formants and Harmonics

At this point it is inevitable to mention Formants and Harmonics. 

While you won’t need to be an expert on it to become a great singer, a basic understanding of these principles is very helpful for any singer.

Every time you hear a pitch, you actually hear multiple pitches at one time. 

When we produce a sound, our resonators amplify different parts of the sound wave. 

The fundamental pitch and higher pitches which are part of the wave, we call those Harmonics. These Harmonics shape the tone and color of our pitch. 

The Formants are the resonances which are produced in our vocal tract. We have two main formants. 

The first formant (F1) relates to the size of the pharynx and is created at the throat or larynx. It controls the lower tones, and boosts the bass sounds. 

The second formant (F2) relates to the size of the oral cavity and is created at the mouth, lips, and tongue. F2 creates more brightness and treble. 


Why is is this important to know?

The resonators make a person’s voice recognizable and unique.

The movement of the articulators (larynx, jaw, tongue, lips) shapes the cavities of the vocal tract and determines the sound which emerges at the lips. So by changing the shape of your articulators, you are changing your tone quality by boosting different harmonics. 

This is how we create different vowels, by changing our formants. 



Vowels control formants and harmonics.

F1 is characterized by a darker tone color, F2 is characterized by a brighter tone color.

Vowels also control the relationship between formants and harmonics, and Vowels control the bridges. 

This is why the shape of the vowel is so important for singers. 

Changing the movable articulators is the difference between ‘pulling chest’ and singing in balance, or mixing and belting, or having to yell versus singing powerfully with freedom. 

That is why as voice teachers we emphasize vowels so much.

Do you have any questions in regards to singing? What do you wanted to know in regards to singing and the voice? Just ask us:

Like us on Facebook

Find us on Yelp