Lesson 21 – The Perfect Voice

The Law Of Mechanics


It must seem off to those who have paid little or no attention to voice culture, that so much stress is laid in these lessons on the false action of certain vocal or non-vocal muscles. Those students who have studied voice for a considerable period will easily understand the importance of any information dealing with the interfering muscles.

We pride ourselves on the advancement made in modern times and, as far as mechanical invention goes, we have advanced very much. But a great deal remains to be done. In most branches of study we are still a long way from knowing the exact truth. This is especially true of the human body.

The first man, created of spirit soul and the material essence of the earth, was perfect physically, mentally and spiritually. Why did he and his descendants not remain in this perfect state? Simply because of his disobedience to either one or all of the laws which govern the spirit, mind and body. We call that disobedience, sin.

If I were to eat a decayed egg, I am sure that it would make me ill. But in China, people bury eggs in the ground until they are very much spoiled and then eat them with relish and apparently without danger to their health, so missionaries have said. They have accustomed themselves to the poison contained in the decomposed egg.

Just so a singer or speaker may accustom himself/herself to a false use of the vocal organ and he/she may be satisfied with their voice. But you may be sure that he/she is paying the penalty in some way for this disobedience. Tonsilitis is found as a rule only in weak throats. Consumptives nearly always speak with very weak voice not because their breath is short, but because their vocal organ is weak. Listen to the stammered; he/she breaks every law of the vocal decalog.

The Unites States law says: Ignorance of the law is no excuse!” There is such a thing as a punishment inflicted by Nature, for every violation of her law brings its own consequences, which at first may be very slight, but which become heavier as we persist in the breaking of the law. With that, the everlasting and often nauseating talk about morality is a sign of decadence. The moral laws are most often broken because the physical laws are disobeyed through ignorance.

It is your obligation to know the physical laws of voice, hence this renewed discourse on false and true vocal action.

The Interfering Muscles Are All Attached To The Hyoid Bone

All muscles which interfere with the true voice action, do so only because they are attached to the hyoid bone. They obstruct the chord-stretching effect in two ways:

1. By preventing the tilting of the hyoid bone which in turn tilts the Adam’s apple or thyroid cartilage and thereby stretches the vocal chords.

2. By drawing the hyoid bone, and with it the entire larynx, forward, away from the spine, thereby again preventing the stretching of the vocal chords.

The Biventer Muscle – Cranium To Hyoid Bone

Turn to Figure 44 in the fifth lesson and examine the two muscles marked biventer. These two muscles are joined together near the hyoid bone by a tendon.


1. Both parts of this muscle combine to pull the front part of the hyoid bone strongly upward, thereby counteracting the essential down-pulling, thyroid-tilting muscle, the sterno-hyoid and also its assistant, the omo-hyoid muscle.

2. The part of the biventer muscle that grows out of the chin can pull the hyoid bone and larynx forward away from the spine.

3. The main part of the biventer muscle, that part which grows out of the cranium or head, can draw the hyoid bone backward, causing a choked though loud tone. The hiccough is mainly effected through this muscle.

Stylo-Hyoid Muscle

In Figure 44, you will also find the stylo-hyoid muscle. It is fastened above the styloid process – the penlike bony projection from the skull, near the ears.

Because this muscle unites the biventer muscle, it can also oppose the downward-pulling, chord-stretching muscles which extend from the breast and collar bone to the Adam’s apple.

The Mylo-Hyoid Muscle – Jaw To Hyoid Bone

If you draw a finger all around the inner side of the lower jaw as far as the back teeth, you are touching the hylo-hyoid’s line of attachment to the jaw. See also the myeloid-hyoid in Figure 44. The fibres of this muscle, which start from rear of the back teeth, extend downward and fasten to the body of the hyoid bone, and can pull this bone upward and forward.


The Genio-Hyoid Muscle – Chin To Hyoid Bone

As may be seen in Figure 44, this muscle lies above the last mentioned mylo-hyoid muscle and below the tongue. It extends from the chin to the hyoid bone.

This muscle can draw the hyoid bone and the attached larynx forward, and away from the spine.

Great Power Of These Forward-Pulling Muscles

As has been described, no less than four pairs of muscles can pull forward and some upward also, upon the hyoid bone and drag the entire larynx away from the spine. These muscles all have their front ends attached to the lower jaw. They are evidently intended to open the mouth by pulling the lower jaw downward; except the mylo-hyoid muscles, which form the floor of the mouth.

But this group of jaw muscles which may act so injuriously upon the voice, can produce a powerful effect only when the lower jaw is held up by other muscles connecting it with the head. When the up-pulling muscles hold the jaw firmly, the down-pulling muscles call pull with more force than when the jaw is not thus supported.

In Figure 46, Lesson Six, you see how the jaw is moved upward by exceedingly powerful muscles. Now when these muscles which pull the jaw upward are held rigid, the muscles which pull the jaw downward, and which are also connected with the hyoid bone, also contract with great force, the result is a most pernicious influence upon the voice. The jaw-stiffening muscles can harden the entire throat and drag the larynx into unnatural positions.

The Great Temptation To Contract The Jaw

The temptation to contract the jaw is very great indeed. It almost seems NATURAL to hold the jaw tight. In almost any physical performance we associate a great effort with the idea of great muscular exertion which we expect to feel as a strain upon some part of the body. If we lift a weight we exert ourselves in proportion to the weight and we feel the exertion in the arms and shoulders. If we throw a stone, we instinctively flex the arm more strongly the greater the distance we wish to reach. The same in jumping. For a high jump we exert ourselves more than for an ordinary jump.

In a like manner the speaker, and still more the singer, often make an instinctive effort, especially for loud or high tones. He/she judges correctly that a louder or higher tone demands a greater effort and, naturally enough, thinks the he/she must FEEL the effort. Their vocal habits are already formed and most likely are far from being right. The rapid articulation in common speaking leaves the tongue muscles to much relaxed to allow of rapid movement. The need of constantly changing the shape of the mouth’s rear cavity for different vowels incessantly varies the position of the soft palate as well as the tongue.

These rapid changes excite strong sensations, but neither the speaker nor the singer can localize them exactly. Here lies the great danger; say the voice lacks volume or perhaps musical quality. In the first case the student thinks he/she must exert themselves to make the voice stronger, in the second case he/she tries all sorts of means and ways to change the voice, to make it more musical. He/she seeks for some local efforts, which can be felt and find the mischievous jaw muscles only too ready and eager to satisfy.

Strong Sensations Wrong

The previous lesson has shown how easy it is to contract the jaw muscles. The speaker or singer chooses them instinctively instead of the tongue muscles, because they at once make the voice stronger and he/she feels that they are doing something. The average person is not trained to differentiate sharply between a good voice and an inferior voice. If he/she feels a CHANGE in the voice, they are satisfied. The jaw muscles pull upon solid walls of bone, while the tongue muscles pull only upon yielding parts. The jaw muscles can be felt very strongly. The tongue muscle cannot. It is easy to see why so many instinctively contract the jaw muscles.

Relaxation Also Wrong

Since wrong muscles have so much greater power to excite strong sensations and the right muscles so much less, voice teachers generally advise their students to dismiss all effort. They tell the pupil to hold the throat perfectly relaxed in order to avoid forcing. This would be all right, if the student could relax only the wrong muscles. But in trying to relax, he/she also relaxes the right muscles; those which stretch the vocal chords.

The right vocal muscles must contract very powerfully for any tone, even for the soft ones. The difference is, that in the loud, unmusical voice, the muscular effort is wasted, while in the true, strong and musical voice, NO effort is wasted.

When the hyo-glossi muscle is trained to its utmost strength, then it will naturally assert itself and automatically eliminate all the wrong muscles. This of course if the highest type of voice, and this is the type you should have in mind to try to reach.

In the last lesson you saw that they hyo-glossi muscle and the jaw muscles lie very near together. The hyo-glossi is on the inside of the angle of the jaw and the jaw muscles on the outside. What is more natural than to confound the two, especially since to teacher, no speaker, no vocalist ever realized the importance of the hyo-glossi muscle? The physicians know the hyo-glossi muscle merely as a tongue depressing muscle, but not as a larynx-raising and chord-stretching muscle.

Neither relaxation nor tension is correct, but strength and flexibility should be acquired.

If the student were to be told to relax the jaw or the throat, he/she would at the same time relax also the essential vocal muscles and strong, good voice would become impossible.

You are merely to call your attention to the right vocal attack so that you will not be conscious of either jaw or throat, or of ANY part of your body, for that matter.

Therefore, you will not read “Don’t do that!” but always, “Do this.” Think only of the right thing, and the wrong will, in time, be impossible to do.

So, by now you should know what is meant by “Do this.” It is the tongue attack that you must feel so plainly when you speak or sing with the little finger under the tongue. When you strongly feel the “beat” of the tongue, which is caused by the action of the hyo-glossi muscles, you have made a long stride towards the final goal.

Exercises for Lesson 21

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