Physiology Of The Vocal Organ
Chewing gum may not be directly injurious to the voice however, the wildest imagination cannot claim that it is in any way helpful to the voice.
If not directly injurious to the voice, chewing gum interferes with clear and clean articulation and, as will presently be shown, because the chewing muscles are over strained and emphasized too strongly, the direct vocal muscles, which are smaller and finer in texture, are neglected.
Whether you crack a nut with your teeth, or indulge in the tender habit of kissing, in both cases you contract very powerful muscles, and these same muscles can assist and help you in your correct vocal effort, if rightly understood. But if you not understand them, and the millions of poor speakers and thousands of inferior singers are proof that few people do understand them, then these muscles will turn against you and destroy what natural beauty of voice you already possess.
The muscles of the head and face are well illustrated in Fig. 46.
The muscles extending from back of the ear downward are very powerful neck muscles, which hold and move the head. Of course they have nothing to do directly with the voice, but indirectly, like many other muscles, can assist the voice when they are allowed to perform their natural office. On the other hand, when they are misused, they will very greatly interfere with the voice. Just for a little experiment, try the following
Drop the head, in complete exhaustion, or relaxation, so that it lies loosely upon the chest; then speak or sing. You will find it extremely difficult to make any good sounds whatever. Then drop your head backward, and you will find the same disastrous results when you sing or speak. Drop your head sidewise right and left, and again the voice will sound bad. Why is that?
The explanation is simply this: Every muscle serves a certain purpose of its own. It connects with the other muscles or parts of the body, and in this manner it becomes a link in a chain. When this link is disturbed or dislodged from its natural position, it disturbs the entire chain of muscles or parts of the body of which it is a link.
When the head is allowed to drop below its natural level, or when, as in throwing the head too far backward or sidewise, the muscles are out of their natural position, then the muscles which hold and control the larynx lose their natural position and support. Consequently, the voice is also made to suffer.
The same thing happens, in a measure, if you change the natural position of the lips, as you can easily demonstrate by first drawing the corners of the mouth too far back and then trying to sing or speak. Or try to draw your upper lip upward, exposing the teeth, or let the lower lip drop downward. The sound will become flat and disagreeable. When these facial mouth are dislodged from their natural positions, and in consequence all vocal muscles are interfered with.
Did you ever have a “crick” in the back” If you did, you know how painful it was to walk or turn your head. Yet only one of the many muscles of the back and neck was affected. But this one is a link in the chain of muscles of the back and neck, and because this one link, may be the smallest of all the muscles, was out of order, all the other muscles were interfered with.
Do you begin to see the importance of this anatomical study, especially those as it relates to your voice? You can now see why some so-called systems of voice culture, which massage the head and neck muscles by turning and by moving the head, are absolutely useless, if not directly injurious, to the voice.
Moving and turning the head is absolutely useless, if not directly injurious, to the voice.
The muscles of the head are divided into muscles of the cranium or bony parts of the head and muscles of the face. In Fig. 46 “ma” shows a very powerful muscle from the skull to the jaw. It is one of the principal chewing muscles, hence it is called masseter.
It is assisted by several other muscles which need not be mentioned here.
Muscles of the mouth are shown in the same figure. The basis of the muscles of the mouth is the sphincter oris (o), which forms the circle or band around the lips. Out of this broad, strong muscle radiate the many others which go upward to the bones of the face and downward to the chin, like the spokes of a wheel, of which the sphincter oris forms the center.
One the right and left sides of the mouth are the buccinators muscles (b). This pair of muscles extends far inside of the mouth beyond the back teeth, constituting the principal part of the cheeks. The cheek muscles are directly connected with the muscles of the pharynx, and by that means can assist in vocal production, or, if not used in the natural way, can destroy vocal sound. In a rough way, we may compare the muscles of the mouth to a wheel. The bones of the face are the rim of the wheel; the muscles radiating downward from above and upward from the chin would be the spokes, and the buccinators muscles are the hub. Here again you have a complete chain or rather circle of links which fit into each other. If, for instance, the mouth is opened too far, or if the upper lip is raised too much, or the lower lip is unduly depressed, then these important muscles are out of their natural line and unable to work. No muscle can operate to any advantage if its natural position is to any perceptible degree a little shorter, and pulls upon its places of attachment, then it is relaxed and so on. But when an muscle is disturbed from its natural position, it cannot contract, hence it becomes useless.
These are all very important matters which you should know, for then you will understand the underlying principles of this method and you will also see the simplicity of it all. Knowing is believing, and when you once believe with all your heart, you will be willing to work and to go on to the finish, which will be very gratifying to you!
The palate (Fig. 47) is the roof of the mouth and at the same time the floor of the nose. The front part is hard and bony; therefore it is called the hard palate. Out of it grow the upper teeth. The rear part, or soft palate, is a continuation of the hard palate, but it is soft, being merely a broad sheet of muscles. The hard palate of course is immovable. The soft palate can be moved up or down, and it can also be elongated or contracted. In this manner it can influence the voice in many ways. It is directly connected with the muscles of the pharynx and with the Adam’s apple, or thyroid cartilage, which is an important part of the larynx. The soft palate ends in the middle line with a tail, called the “uvula” (U). The free sides of the soft palate descend into the rear part of the mouth and form the arches. The front or first arch reaches into the tongue and the second arch, which is behind the former, reaches into the throat or pharynx. Between these two arches on the sides of the rear part of the tongue are located the tonsils (T). The two arches are often called the pillars of the fauces.
The mouth really ends with the first one of the arches, or fauces, and the throat begins with the second arch.
“Apg” shows the direction of the muscles which extend from the first arch into the tongue. They are palato-glossus muscles. In swallowing, they close completely upon each other and together with the back part of the tongue prevent food from getting back into the mouth. The food passes from there to the second arch “Apph,” the palato-pharyngeus muscles, which reach far down into the throat and are there fastened to the rear horns of the thyroid cartilage, or Adam’s apple.
These arches also close upon the food and force it into the sack-like food pipe (see Fig. 42), . . .
. . .which again forces the contents into the stomach (see Fig. 43).
But these arches and muscles grow out of the easily yielding soft palate. Therefore the soft palate must be supported by other muscles. If this were not so, the arches could find no hold against which they could contract with their full energy. This support is given to the soft palate by muscles which grow out of the skull and fasten into the soft palate.
The mass of muscular flesh which constitutes the soft palate extends backward from its firm attachment to the hard palate, and may be felt by the finger to turn downward into the throat. On both sides of it the four pairs of muscles which really constitute its whole substance start out. Two pairs stretch downward ad two pairs upward. The two downward ones have been mentioned already. The two upward inclined pairs are the ones which enable the soft palate to resist the down-pulling muscles already mentioned. If this support fails, the whole chain of muscles from palate to breastbone will be enfeebled.
Inside the skull, and just above the ears, a pen-like projection of hard, solid bone reaches downward. From this bone the two muscles extend downward and forward to the sides of the soft palate, there they spread out somewhat like a fan, to the middle of the palate. Other fibers pass and fasten upon the rear edge of the hard palate. These muscles intersect with those muscles – the palato-pharyngei- that run downward to the throat.
You can easily appreciate the intimate connection between the muscles which pull the palate down and those which pull it upward, and also their intimate connection with the larynx.
The front arch, of which the palato- glossi muscles are a large part, reaches, as already said, from the soft palate to the tongue. Now if the palate were not supported from above, these tongue-to-palate muscles would pull the soft palate down. Therefore, they would be unable to raise the tongue, or to hold the tongue firmly again muscles soon to be described, which reach from the tongue to the larynx. The soft palate must be held up or supported by the muscles uniting it with the skull.
These muscles are the “levatores palati” (1) in Fig. 48.
They are assisted by another pair of muscles, which are fastened to the Eustachian tube (ear tube) and neighboring parts of the ears. They also descend from the skull until they reach a hook-like projection (the hamular process) which grows out of the extreme rear end of the upper jaw, behind and a little above the last back teeth. These muscles, the tensores-palati (2) in Fig 48, turn and twist around this hook or hammer, getting thereby a very firm support. They then pass horizontally inward and fasten into the soft palate. These muscles, as their name indicates, are tensing muscles . They assist the other muscles in making the palate firm and in resisting the downward pulling muscles, names those which reach from the soft palate to the tongue and to the thyroid cartilage, or the Adam’s apple.
The muscles which support the soft palate have to perform two distinct services:
- To afford a firm support for the muscles which directly or indirectly stretch the vocal chords.
- To close the passage from the rear part of the mouth to the nasal passages, thereby preventing nasal tones.
The raising of the soft palate, erroneously taught by many instructors, is an extreme mistake, and has disastrous results upon both the quality and the volume of the tone. When the palate is raised beyond its natural position, then those muscles also which reach from the palate to the tongue and down to the larynx lose their natural position. It is a long-established fact and proven beyond any measure of doubt, that when a muscle moves from its natural position it has lost its capacity to contract and to fulfill its natural appointed task. You can easily prove that yourself.
Step forward with your right foot; now take another step with the same foot; you can’t take this second step without first drawing your left foot to the level of the right foot, thereby restoring the natural position of the right foot before you take a second step. In a like manner, when the palate is raised all the muscles connected in any way with the soft palate are moved with it, just as the leg was moved along with your foot. Having once been moved, they cannot in this position move or contract again in the manner necessary for the highest type of speaking and singing.
It is true that many persons sing with the raised palate, but none of them are first or even second class singers. All those who sing in this way will find breaks in their voices. Their tones become thin and weak. They lack volume. Such singers cannot reach out and move an audience because their voices are devoid of granduer and pathos. A great deal more will be said in explanation of this subject later on, when you know more of the complete working of the entire vocal organ.
The two pairs of muscles just described unite their energy to close the nasal passages against the entrance of air from the throat through the rear part of the mouth.
If you will push your thumb flesh part upward, into the extreme rear corner of the mouth and then blow breath through the nose, you will feel the soft palate pulled down to let the breath pass between it and the spine behind. Breathe repeatedly outward, and imagine that the breath is seen to pass upward from the throat and then to turn at right angles in order to pass forward and through the nose.
Please be warned right now to not think that sounds move in the same way as breath. That is, that sound can turn around a corner. It does not!
The two pairs of muscles which support the soft palate from above, and at least the rear arch and its muscles, which go down into the throat, can, and in correct action do, pull the soft palate back against the spine, thereby closing the nasal passage.
You have learned now of a perfect chain of muscles surrounding and controlling the larynx; also another chain of the mouth and face, and still another in the muscles of the palate.
Now while each of these chains is complete within itself, they are yet dependent upon one another. The circle of chains is not yet finished; one other must be added to it, and that circle is of the utmost importance, because it will lead us to the solution of the entire vocal question.
The new circle of links is a chain which concerns itself with the tongue, the climax of these lessons. In that chain we shall see revealed the secret which many good men of all ages, from Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, to our contemporaries, have striven to penetrate. Many seekers have come very close to it, especially in modern times, since exact scientific investigation has been made possible.
Through the knowledge of this secret, you can, by practice, develop a voice which is first of all your very own, not an imitation of some other person; be his or her voice ever so good, your voice can be better. When you know and understand the true and exact working of the vocal organ, you will no longer be deceived by those who talk merely in glittering generalities, hiding their ignorance behind a flow of words. You will stand on the unassailable foundation of fact, and as Mark Twin has said, “He who has a fact has a kingdom in his hands.” He stands on solid ground, sure, supreme, with the fact as a basis. He can work and develop it to the uttermost. A fact is like the ocean: it cannot be ignored.