Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Mapping the Structures of Resonance

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Mapping the Structures of Resonance

Article excerpt


WHAT IS BODY MAPPING? Is it about anatomy? Physiology? Body awareness? The answer to all of these questions is "Yes." Body Mapping helps people discover and correct misconceptions about the way their bodies are built and the way they function. For instance, a singer who thinks that the muscles that move the jaw connect to it only from above (masseter, temporalis muscles) finds new freedom of movement when she clearly maps the muscles that pull the jaw back and down from below (digastric muscles). This process of discovery must not end with simple recognition of the truth; singers must embody that truth until misconceptions are replaced with true kinesthetic understanding of the individual structures in relation to the whole body. An accurate body map will ensure efficient movement and freedom for artistic expression.

Fortunately, we do not need a detailed map of every part of our bodies. Pianists need a detailed map of the hand; singers do not. We need detailed maps of the structures used in breathing, phonation, resonance, and articulation. This article gives an introduction to mapping the structures of resonance. It may lead to instant recognition of movements you long have understood and used efficiently, or it may lead you to new discoveries. It also may help you assist singers and correct mismappings.


Of all aspects of singing, resonance is at once the most vital and the most difficult to quantify. Though we often know how we want to sound, we are not always able to find the resonance we seek.

An infinite number of movement combinations affect the shape of the vocal tract, and, consequently, vocal resonance. How do we begin to choose? Tiny adjustments of the tongue, lips, jaw, and position of the larynx can have a dramatic impact on our sound. Since mese structures are so closely connected, tension in one structure often can lead to tension in the others. On the other hand, releasing one structure can trigger releases in the others. How we move these structures in relation to each other has an enormous effect on our resonance. The key to success in resonance, as in any aspect of singing, is awareness. Both attention to detail and attention to the whole are essential.

Some of the structures of resonance can be explored by using tactile sense (sense of touch); however, many of the structures are so deep inside the vocal tract that they can be sensed only through movement, using kinesthetic sense. You already have quite a bit of kinesthetic awareness of your vocal tract, whether it is conscious or not. You know what yawning, chewing, and swallowing feel like. The structures involved in those actions also are used in vocal resonance. The more you develop your kinesthetic sense of the structures of your vocal tract, the more finely tuned and flexible your resonance will be.

In singing, the resonator is the chamber of air in the space that extends from the vocal folds to the lips and, for some sounds, to the nostrils. The complex sound wave generated by vibrating vocal folds is filtered through the resonating chamber of air and emerges as musical tone. This is analogous to the buzz of the lips that sets air in the tube of a brass instrument into vibration, or the vibrating string of a violin that resonates in the hollow space of its body. Unlike these instruments, however, the resonator of the voice can change shape dramatically. Every time we move a structure, we change the resonance.

There are eight moveable structures that affect the shape of the resonator: the pharyngeal constrictors (the muscles that form the back of the throat), the soft palate (velum) that is suspended between the throat and the nasal passages, the jaw (mandible) along with the muscles that move it, the tongue, the lips, the buccinators (the muscles that form the inside of the cheeks), the larynx along with the muscles that move it, and the balance of the head at the atlanto occipital (A/O) joint. …

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