We explain what the human voice is, the types that exist and the structure of the vocal apparatus. Also, what are its characteristics and rhythm.

What is the voice?

We call voice or human voice to the rigid and voluntary sound that is produced when the air contained in the lungs crosses the vocal cords located in the throat, making them vibrate.

This is what happens when we talk, sing, laugh or shout .

Each human voice is different, since it responds to the congenital configuration of our speech apparatus, but at the same time it can be modulated (in its tone) to transmit a wide range of emotions or socially codified meanings.

It can also be articulated through the intervention of the rest of the organs involved in phonation, such as the tongue or lips.

In contrast, sounds that are involuntary , inarticulate, or that do not involve the vocal cords, such as coughs , are not usually considered part of the voice .

male and female voices

Men and women have different voices because their speech systems develop differently during puberty .

Generally , the male voice is deeper , with lower tones, due to thicker vocal cords (between 17 and 25 mm in length, against 12.5 and 17 mm for women).

voice types

voice types

The most common classification of human voices attends to their vocal nuances, according to a classification inherited from Italian opera.

  • Soprano. The highest pitched voices, capable of a voice range that would go from C4 to C6 on piano. They can be light sopranos (provided with more sharpness), lyrical (with more volume but less sharpness) or dramatic (lower voice and bright timbre).
  • Mezzo-soprano. Voices noticeably lower than the soprano, but with essentially the same characteristics, so much so that they can be classified in the same way: mezzo-light, mezzo-lyrical and mezzo-dramatic.
  • Contralto. The lowest of the high voices, barely 2% of women in the world have them. They have a rich sonority and enormous amplitude in their register, oscillating between an fa3 and an fa5.
  • Tenor. The highest of the bass voices, in a short register: between Do3 and Do4. They are classified like the sopranos in light, lyrical and dramatic.
  • Baritone. The most common male voices are baritones, they are not very agile voices, but whose intermediate range allows them to achieve a versatility between sharpness and gravity.
  • Under. The deepest and darkest voices of all, similar to the low notes of a cello. They are almost totally male and appear after the sexual development of the individual.

Generally the first three are female voices and the last three are male voices.

Organs of the speech apparatus

The speech apparatus is made up of three different groups of organs:

  • Organs of respiration . Responsible for accumulating and displacing the air that allows the voice to emerge. These are the lungs, the bronchi and the trachea.
  • Organs of phonation. Those responsible for driving the air from inside the body to the outside, making it pass through the vocal cords. These are the larynx, the vocal cords and the mouth.
  • Organs of articulation. They are in charge of modifying the air flow of the voice, in order to form certain sounds and that a flow of sound does not simply emerge from the mouth. These are the tongue, teeth, lips, palate, and glottis.

voice qualities

voice qualities

The human voice has four fundamental qualities:

  • Joint. The ways in which the voice is modified through the movements of the organs of the speech apparatus, to achieve certain sounds and thus form, for example, words.
  • Tone or intonation. Modulation in the rhythm of voice production, which allows sounds to be given a specific character, such as emotion or accent.
  • Doorbell. The individual and characteristic way in which the voice is produced, being able to be serious (low) or high-pitched (shrill).
  • Intensity. The amount of force with which sounds are obtained, and may fall on some parts of the sound chain, such as the different syllables of a word.

How is the voice produced?

The development of the human voice involves different stages:

  • Air from outside the body is inhaled and collects in the lungs.
  • Air is exhaled through the pharynx, where it meets the vocal cords, causing them to vibrate and fill with sound waves.
  • The sound-laden air reaches the mouth, where it is modulated and articulated to have the specific characteristics of a word or a specific sound.
  • The voice comes out of the mouth and reaches the ears of those who listen.

What are the functions of the voice?

What are the functions of the voice

The human voice serves us for a gigantic range of communicative interactions , such as speaking, singing, laughing, shouting, moaning, etc. It is a fundamental element in the communication of human beings .

Why is voice important?

The human voice is the fundamental apparatus of socialization that we have , since our species is the only one in the world capable of communicating through an articulated verbal language .

Thus, our voice is not only the physical medium (air and sound vibrations) through which we put language into operation, but it is also one more element that intervenes in the communication process.

This is because it can add information to the message , even contradictory information, as does a person who says he is happy, but with a sad tone.

voice rhythm

voice rhythm

The human voice serves, like many other things, to transmit rhythm, just as singers do .

In general, the rhythm is the number of words or sounds that can be emitted during the same breath , that is, how fast or slow the voice is produced, as well as the intervals of variation with respect to said pattern.

Thus, the rhythm can vary depending on the individuals , but also depending on the culture and society to which they belong.

aphonia of voice

Aphonia is the term that refers to the loss of voice , that is, to the decrease or attenuation of the ability of the vocal cords to vibrate.

It can be due to different reasons, such as illnesses and infections, excessive use of the voice (after shouting a lot or speaking very loudly for a long time) or due to alterations in the auditory system that cause loss of voice (after unable to perceive it).

How can we take care of it?

How can we take care of it

Some tips for voice care are:

  • Avoid excessive and repetitive use of the voice, without giving appropriate breaks to the vocal apparatus.
  • Modulate appropriately when speaking, especially for long periods, and try to speak at a more leisurely pace.
  • Avoid cigarette.
  • Do not clear your throat excessively or brutally.
  • Go to the specialist when you perceive any speech difficulty.

The above content published at Collaborative Research Group is for informational and educational purposes only and has been developed by referring reliable sources and recommendations from technology experts. We do not have any contact with official entities nor do we intend to replace the information that they emit.


MA student of the TransAtlantic Masters program at UNC-Chapel Hill. Political Science with a focus on European Studies. Expressed ideas are open to revision. He not only covers Technical articles but also has skills in the fields of SEO, graphics, web development and coding. .

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