Physiology Of The Vocal Organ
From the description of the various muscles which constitute the tongue, you realize, without doubt, its great importance. As has been said, when the mouth is closed, the tongue fills the entire space within, reaching from in front of the teeth backward into the food pipe. When the mouth is opened, the tongue may be protruded, and many movements may be made, and changes of form and position be assumed by this versatile member of the body. These changes occur during eating, chewing and swallowing, but more especially during speaking and singing. The tongue is not only a most important part of the digestive apparatus and the main organ for tasting, approving or rejecting of food, but it is also a very important part of the vocal organ. We must remember that what we see of the tongue when the mouth is open, that is, the tongue tip and the surface, is only a very small part of it.
You have already learned that muscles are arranged in systems, circles or chains. Each one of a set of muscles forms a link in a chain. One line is as important as another. All of them are needed to support the chain. If one of them should break or be weakened, all of the others are thereby weakened.
In reality, the natural system of the human body is not complicated at all, but simple. It is complicated only to those who have never studied and analyzed it: but when it is once understood, it is simple and beautiful.
As with a seed that grows, the human body reaches its full development, but with this difference: that it can be still further developed by the conscious will to an extent the limit of which is unknown to us. It certainly has never been reached. If we keep alive the spirit within us, that spirit will help us to a self-development in any line that is righteous and helpful to humanity.
Abraham Lincoln is said to be the inventor of a system of developing the eyesight, by voluntarily contracting certain muscles, and by the massaging of the outer parts of the eyes. He thus preserved his own sight.
Every sense can be developed and every single part of the body as well, with this difference: that the senses are developed by a purely mental process, the body and its separate parts by a voluntary physical process. When that process is known you can reach the utmost perfection by a steady continued application of the process.
Now look at Fig. 55 (From Lesson 7).
In it you see illustrated the muscles which can raise the tongue; pull it backward, forward and downward. Imagine the muscles 4 and 6 as having contracted. What will the muscles 2 and 3 do? What will they accomplish that is of interest to us?
The only thing these muscles (the hyo-glossi and chondro-glossi muscles) can do and must do, is to pull the hyoid bone 9 upward toward the tongue. Remember that the muscles 2 and 3 contract. They therefore pull upon every one of their attachments above, forward and below. They cannot, however, pull the tongue either downward or backward, because of the muscles which hold the tongue upward and forward. Therefore, they must pull upward the part which is attached to its lower end, because that part (the hyoid bone and especially its rear horns) is free to move either upward or downward. You must understand this action clearly, because much depends upon this understanding.
The muscles which pull the hyoid bone upward are free, that is, they are nowhere bound to a fixed bone. As are the muscles from the chin and skull, which are attached to the tongue.
When a muscle is tied to a fixed bone, you have no control over it, save the contraction which is natural to all the muscles. But these hyo-glossi and chondro-glossi muscles are free. Another remarkable fact about them is that the principal nerve of the tongue centers in these muscles. We also find here branches of the auricular nerve, which guides the sense of hearing. This is another sure sign that Nature has provided these muscles, and these alone, to control the vocal organ, and to determine both the volume and quality of the voice. If these hyo-glossi and chondro-glossi muscles were not free, that is, if they were bound to a firmly fixed bone, we could never gain voluntary control of the voice. But because of the discovery that these muscles are free agents, and because of the fact that the most important vocal nerves center in these muscles, it is now possible to gain direct control over them, to train them and to make them strong.
Of course, you cannot yet see what all this leads to, for we have not touched upon either the larynx or vocal chords as yet. After all is said and done, you must voluntarily master and control only one part of the vocal apparatus. We cannot have much control over the internal machinery of the vocal organ, and as the internal parts are fixed, both as to position and volume, no training can be given that part. Furthermore, it is neither necessary nor desirable. The internal parts are like the bones of your body; you cannot add to them or change them. They are like the minerals, while the muscles are like the vegetable life, which can be nursed and cultivated to almost any extent.
The important part just now is for you to realize the great importance of these muscles which directly operate the vocal organ. When you once get this point, you will want to continue your practice. You will then feel sure of ultimately being in possession, not only of a good speaking voice, superior in all respects to the average good voice, but that you can equal and even surpass the very best orators and singers.
Think what a wonderful opportunity this opens to you. The power of a fine speaking or singing voice cannot be overestimated. When you fully realize the importance of this discovery, you, who have studied voice, perhaps for years, will understand why even the best teacher have not been able to advance you much beyond the point at which you started. And you whose voices have become worse instead of better, and you who have lost your voices entirely, can now see why that happened.
Neither you nor your teachers were conscious of the voice-controlling force. You had no control over this all-important force; besides, these muscles were weak, at least too weak to offset conflicting muscles. You used what was possible, and trying to go beyond the natural and possible, you arrived at the impossible and lost. But, not you realize your former limitations, you must also realize the almost unlimited possibilities before you.
Physiology Of The Vocal Organ
They hyo-glossi muscle, are attached to the rear horns of the hyoid bone, they therefore mainly tend to pull these horns upward. The body of the hyoid bone (the front part) is not connected with the upward pulling muscles, but it is the part into which the downward pulling muscles are fastened, as you have already learned in the lesson which describes the muscles which pull the larynx downward. Remember the muscles (the sterno-hyoid) which rise out of the breast bone and go upward to the front part of the hyoid bone. These muscles hold the front body of the hyoid bone firmly, so that they hyo-glossi and the chondro-glossi muscles cannot draw the entire hyoid bone upward, but merely its rear horns.
See illustration 37 (From Lesson V)
Examine again the hyoid bone. C represents the body, Cm represent the small horns and Cmj the long horns. Compare this with an ordinary horseshoe. Hold the front middle part of a horseshoe firmly with one hand, and the finger of the other hand pull upward on the two side extensions. You now have a fair picture of the operation of the hyoid bone. In its natural position, that is, in the state of rest, it lies horizontally in an almost level plane, but when the muscles pull the rear horns upward, it stands obliquely.
The two positions referred to above are illustrated in Fig. 59:
In singing, the hyoid bone must always assume this oblique position. Also, in public speaking this position is necessary, though perhaps not at so sharp an angle. The front part of the hyoid bone must be held at its natural level to resist the upward drawing of the front of the thyroid cartilage or Adam’s apple. The horns must rise obliquely to make room for the rear part of the thyroid cartilage, which has to be strongly pulled upward from behind.
Its front part must be held downward firmly, and this is done by the muscles which arise out of the breast bone upward and attach themselves to the front of the hyoid bone. The tilting of the thyroid cartilage upward behind, downward in front, stretches the vocal chords.
The point is: the hyo-glossi muscle is the only muscle in several chains of muscles which directly sets into action all the sections which together make up the entire vocal organ. It is the main spring or keystone on which all else depends. In the course of lessons you will be taught that in the last analysis all good sounds, tones, or articulation are preceded by the contraction of the hyo-glossi muscle. When you have learned to contract it voluntarily you will have positive proof of the superiority of this action over any other. Finally, the voluntary training which you give to this muscle will result in involuntary and automatic action and then your voice is established, needing only continued exercise to strengthen this muscle still more. When you can control the hyo-glossi your voice will be smooth and strong, and it will flow as easily as running water.
In the next lesson the larynx will be described, leading to the consideration of the vocal chords within the larynx. You will then have the complete picture of the vocal organ before you and can fully comprehend the operation of the all-important and infallible hyo-glossi muscle.