What determines the pitch of our voices?


What determines the pitch of our voices?

In: 2


Basically it is the length of our vocal cords, which are the tiny folds of tissue that vibrate when we speak or sing. Longer vocal cords produce a lower voice. You can think of it like a harp, where the high notes come from plucking the shorter strings. But the resonance of the voice can change how deep it sounds too, and this is determined by the shape and size of the inside of your mouth and throat. A very husky voice can also sound lower than it actually is, too. A good example is Bryan Adams, who has a high tenor voice but many people don’t realise because of the huskiness.

Pitch is inversely proportional to the length of the folds of the vocal chords. Adult males have longer folds, on average, followed by adult females, then children. These folds can be consciously and unconsciously contracted during speech or singing to change the pitch.

It’s not just length of the vocal folds (larger, and so lower in men), but thickness, and tension, of the vocal folds too, as well as the size and shape of the vocal tract above the vocal folds

Have you ever played with a guitar and tried to tune it, you can turn that gear at the end of the string to tighten it up, producing a higher pitch. This can be done with the vocal folds too, muscles pulling on and tensing up the vocal folds would achieve a higher pitch.

Have you ever blown into a pan flute, or played with a sandal-piano where you slap sandals onto pvc pipes to make a sound? Same amount and force air going in, but the longer wider pipe makes a lower sound than the shorter thinner one. Blue man group made an adjustable one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOLBn8GKBlA notice how when he makes the pipes shorter, the pitch rises. And when he makes it longer, the pitch lowers. So then a larger longer vocal tract should have a lower pitch. And if muscles were to lift up the larynx that should mean it would be at a higher pitch because the whole path is shorter, and if it were to lower the voice should be deeper. Put your hand on your adam’s apple and make a really high pitch sound, then a really low one. Feel what’s happening? The larynx is moving up and down to help achieve those different pitches. It’s not just the larynx moving either, but our whole mouth and throat shaping and changing to achieve different shapes and pitches.

There’s more too it, but that’s the basics