Anatomy of Singing

Lesson #4: Anatomy of Singing


Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of healthy vocal technique by identifying correct vocal placement from a live example and within their own vocal performances.


Material Needed: Audio Clips for Hook


Hook: Vocal Showcase

Play a variety of different (good) vocal artists including opera, musical theatre, pop artists, jazz singers etc. Assess their preview knowledge of vocal production terms (pitch, tempo, volume/dynamics, tone/ resonance) by analyzing each example.

  • Opera:
  • Pop:
  • Jazz:
  • Musical Theatre:



Ask the class what they noticed/liked about each of the singers. Tell them that the one thing they all have in common is good vocal technique. Ask them if they’ve ever blown their voice out at a football game or a rock concert. How did it feel? Tell them that good vocal technique is used more than for simply singing but can help us in numerous situations. How can we maintain healthy voices?


Step 1: Vocal Foundations Review

  • Breathing: Have students lie on their back with their feet planted and knees bent. Have them place their hands on their stomachs to feel where their breath is coming from. Have them take a quick noisy breath through their mouth. Where did you feel the air go? Have them take a slow quiet breath through their nose. Where did you feel the air go now? Discuss the pros and cons of breathing through your diaphragm vs. your lungs.
  • How Sound is Created: Air travels up your trachea until reaches the vocal folds or vocal chords which are protected by the larynx (voice box) which is made of cartilage. The chords themselves are two infoldings of mucous membrane located just above the trachea. The air rushes in between these folds (cords) causing them to vibrate thus producing a sound. The sound then continues up the through the pharynx which acts as a passageway to the mouth.
  • Resonance: Resonance is how and where the sound vibrates. Have them sing a note and plug their nose. If the sound stops they were resonating in their nasal cavity. Have them try to produce a note that resonates somewhere else. Have them do an imploded “K” (or make a Darth Vader sound) Ask them if they felt anything happening in the back of their throat. Explain to them that this is the soft palate lifting. In singing, having a raised soft palate helps to create more space in the back of their throat and helps create a more open resonance.
  • Diction: Explain that once the air reaches the mouth, the sound must be shaped with the articulators: Lips, teeth, tongue, and mouth.


Step 2: Placement Pair and Share

Explain how we are going to explore the next level of tone/ resonance by discussion placement in singing. Divide class into groups to share their given placement, and provide an example.

  1. Belting: A singing technique by which a singer produces a loud sound in his/her mid to upper range. Singers can use belting to convey a sense of heightened emotion, but it can also cause damage to the vocal chords if done improperly.
  2. Chest Voice: Place your hand on your chest and say Ahhhhh on a low pitch. Do you feel the rumbling under your palm? That is your chest voice. It is the singing voice that is closest to our speaking voice. Be careful when belting not to bring the weight of your chest voice up into your higher register.
  3. Falsetto: In male singers, a high register (actually, sung in the female range) similar to the head voice. It is a light, often breathy often. All men also have a mix – they just need to know how to find it.
  4. Head Voice: Singing in the higher part of the range. While singing in the head voice, the vocal folds are thin; the head voice is usually associated with lighter, brighter sounds. If you place your hand on your chest, you shouldn’t feel any rumbling when singing in your head voice.
  5. Legit: A term used to describe a more classical singing style. Your head voice and soft palate are used the most in this style. It requires the most breath.
  6. Mix: The blended part of the singing voice that combines the best qualities of head and chest voice. It is a more contemporary sound that is commonly used in Musical Theatre.


Step 3: Model Placement

Have the students gather back together, and explain how you are going to model singing through all these placements. While singing, hold up a sign with the corresponding placement for which you are currently singing. Afterwards, discuss the certain qualities each placement has with the class. Explain how you are going to sing it again, but this time, they have to hold up a notecard with the corresponding placement for which you are currently singing. *Instead of singing the same song again, you could choose a different song, or show video clip examples*


Step 4: Apply to Song

Have students mark where in their songs they would change vocal placement. Have them practice the various vocal placements by modeling vocal warm ups. Let them practice their performance piece for the remainder of the class