Secondary Vocal Cords

Singing Articles -- Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Posted by: Leslie
I received this query about the anatomy of the voice and thought that many might find my answer enlightening.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rev. Dr. Antonio Hernandez
Sent: Friday, March 17, 2006 11:47 AM
To: leslie@singingworld.com
Subject: question about "secondary" cords
Importance: High


You site is very nice. I wanted to inquire about the assertion that humans possess a "second set" of vocal "cords". I never encountered that before, but it was successfully argued in a court of law.
Because of my encounter with demonic possession claims, and Buddhist tradition of exorcism, we study mental states carefully. I know Tourette Syndrome and other illnesses can alter tone of voice and air movement quality.
Having trained to chant as the Tibetans do, I can produce not only the illusion of dual tones but of triple tones. This, however, is only an illusion, and we are not trained thinking that we possess a secondary vocal structure.
But as I stated, this argument was successfully argued in a court of law, and the argument even mentioned Tibetan chanting as an example of the secondary vocal cord set.

Is there any information you could supply me, or a resource I might consult? This is a vital detail in my ongoing studies.

Respectful Thanks,
Elder Rev. Dr. Antonio Hernandez,
Founder, Buddhist Order of the Shade,
Doctor of Oriental Medicine


From: Leslie Harrington [leslie@singingworld.com]
Sent: Friday, March 17, 2006 2:19 PM
To: 'Rev. Dr. Antonio Hernandez'
Subject: RE: Query about "secondary" cords

Dear Dr. Hernandez,

There are indeed a second set of laryngeal folds. However these folds are the middle closure process in the trachea securing the windpipe from the entrance of liquids or solids into the breath way during swallowing.

The first closure valve on the way down is the epiglottis which is at the bottom back of the tongue. The epiglottis is like a door that opens up and forward against the back of the tongue, and closes by flopping down over the entrance to the trachea. This entrance is also the top of the larynx which is the top two cartilages of the trachea.

Below the epiglottis are the false folds which actuate in closure only during swallowing. They close similarly to the vocal cords, hinging from the inside top front center wall of the thyroid cartilage and close as a bifurcated leaf valve (2 leaves). During phonation or vocal sound production the false folds actually erect in hyper-open posture and facilitate the horn or resonance tube of the throat or pharynx.

In this process of opening erection they significantly affect the quality of the sound produced by the vocal process enhancing or defeating quite specifically the overtone structure of the sound produced. In this manner indeed they can assist the multi-tonal production of the Tibetans and others: Google "David Hykes".

The vocal cords are the bottom most valve structure of the larynx and attach just below the false cords. During swallowing they close forcefully in coordination with the false folds to secure the windpipe. During sound production they also close but malleably with infinite if not eternal capability to produce sound.

The vocal cords produce sound with two leaves like the false folds in a process that is most easily described as clapping. Air can flow in either direction or not flow at all during the process and the sound produced is colored accordingly. With the resonance manipulation capability of the pharynx of which the false folds are only a part, the process of the sound production by the vocal cords is quite capable of producing more than one formant or tonal structure. Learning to use the process in this manner takes significant training and concentration of attention as you know.

Put your hands together and while keeping the tips of the fingers touching clap. This is a magnified simulation of the way the vocal cords make sound. The process is capable of closing with resistance or without resistance to the airflow in either direction. With resistance the production will be stressed and without the production will be soft. With this capability anyone can learn to process multiple tonal structures, or speak and sing beautifully.

Please sing and speak with inspiration. By that I mean vocalizing with the breath coming in. You can find out how by noting the difference of the airflow when you shout or scream, and when you call. The call is made with inspiration or breathing in, but at an airflow that is much slower than inhaling. The shout/scream is made with expiration with airflow at about the same level as exhaling.

The Call and the Shout are instinctive reflexes in our language and being. The call beckons and the shout warns. Your audience needs to be called.

As I have experienced the effect of a singer such as yourself who can sing multiple melodies concurrently, I was blessed with the awareness of the spirit of creation rising in glory, for such singing is the highest form of supplication and praise (prayer) that man can achieve.

I hope I have clarified your understanding a little.

Please visit my website: www.singingworld.com. I offer live video-conferencing sessions in vocal training. I am interested in sharing vocal technique with you especially in harmonic overtone production.

Thank you for your compliment.

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Comments ( 34 )

Simon Taylor
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
i am a GCSE music student and have recently been made aware of the fact that humans have two sets of vocal chords, but nowhere on i have looked seems to agree with the next place that i look about exactly how many we have or how to produce two 'voices' at the same time. could anyone tell me how many true and false sets of vocal folds we have and how to use them at the sam time, as i would greatly love to learn this technique.

Leslie Harrington
Friday, March 23, 2007
There is only one set of vocal cords. Just above the vocal folds is another set of folds called the 'false folds' that can close during swallowing. Above these two sets is the epiglottis which closes down over the trachea or wind pipe during swallowing also.
The coordination process that produces two 'voices' combines the erection of the false folds meaning that they open rigidly while the vocal folds make a higher vibration; concurrently the epiglottis is actuated as a growl and can be controlled in a lower vibration range. The higher and lower resonances are enhanced by the coordinated erection of the pharynx or back of the throat from the back of the nose to the trachea. With practice the skills of tonal production can be refined to produce a most harmonious blending of tonalities and qualities into one of the most moving experiences a singer and audience can share. I would be interested in helping you develop these skills. Please feel free to arrange an appointment for a session.

Saturday, August 25, 2007
I have recently found out about the secondary vocal chords and was wondering if i can produce two voices at once. if this is true how do i do that?

Leslie Harrington
Sunday, August 26, 2007
People keep asking about dual vocal cords and do they have two sets of vocal cords. The answer is no.
The anatomy of the human body does have two sets of laryngeal folds, but only one set produces vocal sound. The function of the larynx is first as a triple closure of the trachea or windpipe during swallowing. The epiglottis is the first level and it hinges behind the tongue and closes down over the tracheal opening like a trap door as the larynx lifts up under the tongue. At the same time the middle laryngeal folds close as a bifurcated leaf valve like barn doors sliding closed. The lowest set closes like the middle as a bifurcated valve but has the added capability of closing to make sound.
This set is called the vocal process or the vocal cords. Their closing is somewhat different than the middle folds. The vocal cords hinge in the front and open and close from the back. The way they function is like your hands clapping with the finger tips held together. The palms make the sound of the clap and the vocal process makes sound in just this way, but infinitely more capable than the hands could ever be.
When the vocal process is functioning the middle set of laryngeal folds open against the side of the larynx and can help focus the resonance of the vocal process.
The ability to activate the vocal process in two contrapuntal melodic lines or making two melodies simultaneously that can move in tonal opposition is a coordination of the pharyngeal and laryngeal walls or the back wall of the throat and nose to manipulate the over tonal structure that the vocal process creates. So yes one can sing a duet with one’s self. The instruction for this capability is somewhat lengthy requiring several months to learn the coordination.
Please visit www.singingworld.com/lessons.asp and sign up for an online video conference session where we can go into more detail in a voice lesson.

Friday, November 02, 2007
yeah hello...for the past 2 and 1/2 months I noticed a change in my voice....it also started around the time I was tlaking a medication called Risperdal which did something to my vocal cords I think or maybe it's something else? i mean it feels uncomfortable...I had a barium swallow done which said something about the persistent deep supraglottic laryngeal penetration on drinking....modified barium swallow examination may be helpful for a more thorough analysis. So what i'm syaing is I used to have a deep masculine voice and now it sounds different I can't sing anymore? I can't hit certain tones anymore too...can nayone email me and help me out here? Thanks

Leslie Harrington
Friday, November 02, 2007
Medical pharmaceutical treatment can cause drying and edema [swelling] of the vocal process [the Larynx and vocal cords]. This could be the cause of you loss of vocal coordination indicated by your explanation. Very possibly this is the cause of your attenuated vocal range as well. You should see an otolaryngologist [ear, nose, throat physician] for a medical diagnosis of your problem.

I would need to hear you in order to recommend a path to vocal coordination.

To help you by text alone would be extremely difficult and take a long time. On my website http://www.singingworld.com/contact.asp you will find a link to a free download VOIP/video conferencing/instant text messaging application: www.SKYPE.com. If you have DSL [high speed] internet you can obtain a webcam with microphone and speakers or headphones with a boom microphone for your system from several different manufacturers and suppliers, unless you already have this equipment. You can schedule a session appointment at www.singingworld.com/lessons.asp and we will work on regaining your vocal control. I will also be able to tell whether you should see a medical specialist.

Ian MacGregor
Sunday, September 07, 2008
I have the ability to use both my vocal chords. The result is a voice that sounds almost robotic, I've also heard about tibetan monks having the ability to use them through training. The topic is one I'm investigating further, seeing as I'm a musician looking to train them further then my own practice

Thursday, December 04, 2008
I have to do a project to pass to the next grade. Since I love to sing and play the saxophone. SO i decided to do my display on how the human body produces sound. this reading really helped me thanx!

Peter Morris
Monday, December 29, 2008
I am unsure about this. I accept it isn't easy but if it were possible I should surely be able to find a convincing example somewhere on the web.

I've been looking around now and the only examples I can find either have multiple people in the video, or contain no video at all [and could therefore have any number of people.]

If you yourself are able to produce simultaneous notes I would love to see you post a video on youtube showing the technique.



Friday, January 02, 2009
There are 2 sets of vocal chords, one set on top of the other.
We start out using the top set and once males hit puberty they move to the back set.
There are exercises to work falsetto and chest voice, in other words the hardly used vocal chord of either sex.
I have heard of using both sets at the same time which I think is kind of weird but I am not sure how to do it..Since I am a female tenor in my choir I have worked both vocal chords so I might be able to do it but it is risky to strain my chords..

Also I am teaching our new Tenor about sight reading and good singing basics and everything, but I can't remember the names of each set of vocal chords..Any idea?

Saturday, January 17, 2009
Ashley, we generally only vocalise with our true vocal chords. With puberty, the true chords grow in length, resulding in a deeper sound. There is no shift from one set to the next.

It is possible to use the false chords for adding effects to the voice, but not for general singing. Falsetto, chest voice, head voice, whistle voice, vocal fry all come from the true chords.

amethyst temple
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I really appreciate the information you gave, not only did it clarify a fact I was fairly sure I already knew, but this article also helped me understand singing better. Thank you !

Sebastian Walker
Saturday, May 09, 2009
How do you activate and be able to use your second set of vocal chords because I herd its like an in-human sound that is produced by them and my music would sound amazing with that ability do you know how to activate them?

Laura Lindberg
Sunday, August 02, 2009
hi, please email me at lauralndbrg@gmail.com if you can tell me how to use my false folds, and vocal chords at the same time.
thank you!

Friday, October 16, 2009
Hi I heard that you could use the second set of volcal cords and I was woundering if anyone knew how to or knew of a website that could teach me to do this?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009
so, im in a band and the other day we started recording our demo. when our screamer went up to do his we noticed a very low tone [almost 2 octaves lower] being produced as he was doing his vocals. it wasn't loud, but it definately wasn't quietly hidden in the background. I had a hunch that it might possibly be the 'secondary vocal cords' but i wasnt sure. and after reading this, im still skeptical. if anyone else thinks that im right on this, please let me know, cause its been bugging me to find out and i have not been able to exhaust or validate any other possibilities.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Hi, I use a sound program called SCOPE [non-commercial] which has an oscilloscope. When I talk, I notice four major spikes. Do these spikes correlate with these vocal folds or chords or whatever. Why are there four major spikes in the image??? Cheers

Kaylin Rutter
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
How interesting that you're talking about demonic possession claims, a court argument, and references to Tibetan chanting. I am watching the movie 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose,' and I am at the very scene you were claiming to be real. Did someone steal a scene, hmm?

toni mcmanus
Sunday, December 05, 2010
was the true court cas ein which the tibetan monks were mentioned the true version of th film the exorcism of emily rose?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Kaylin is win!

Thursday, February 16, 2012
Dude, I'm high AF and this shits crazy
...Wonder if its on YouTube...

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