Our World Voice Day Quiz had singers, actors, dancers, teachers and therapists from more than 30 countries take part.
More than 450 of you filled in the quiz, and over 260 got all the questions right.
If you got one of your answers wrong, here’s your chance to find out why.
1. A voice needs: vocal folds, a resonating space and…
b. A glass of port
Answer: Breath to get the vocal folds vibrating.
2. Where is your larynx?
a. In my throat
b. In my boots
c. We don’t talk about that in polite society
Answer: In my throat.
Although we still hear about singing teachers who refuse to talk about the larynx saying it plays no part in singing…
3. In order to sing higher you have to…
a. Inhale helium
b. Vibrate your vocal folds faster
c. Engage your gluteus maximus
Answer: Vibrate your vocal folds faster.
It’s the speed of the vocal folds that dictate what pitch you sing. Engaging your gluteus maximus (the buttocks) is not essential for singing (and certainly not good for singing and walking at the same time…)
And if you want to inhale helium, check out this wonderful Youtube clip from King’s College Choir
4. The sound comes out…
a. Of my mouth or nose (or both)
b. Only after 11am
c. Of the top of my head
Answer: Of my mouth or nose (or both): mouth for a clear vowel, nose for an /ng/ and both for a nasal vowel (think the French word “bien”).
Sorry people, but they’re the only exit holes in the vocal tract. And for the six people who said “of the top of my head”, it’s unlikely unless trepanning is back in fashion.
5. Your diaphragm…
a. Can be felt by putting your hand on your abdomen
b. Can be felt by putting your hands around your waist
c. Can’t be felt from the outside
Answer: Can’t be felt from the outside.
A startling 129 people got this wrong, and we know this is a common misunderstanding, so I’ll explain.
The diaphragm sits high up inside the ribcage. At the front it connects to the bottom of the breastbone (at the xiphoid process), and follows the shape of the ribs down and around. But since it’s a double-dome shape it lives up inside the ribcage, almost at nipple level and never reaches abdominal or waist level.
When the diaphragm contracts downwards to pull air into the lungs, there’s no real room for it to move. So the abdominal contents have to be displaced downwards. What you’re feeling when you put your hand on your abdomen or waist is not your diaphragm but your abdominal wall muscles releasing and the abdominal contents moving down and forwards out of the way. The diaphragm just doesn’t come out of it’s rib-shell.
6. The diaphragm is used for…
a. Breathing in
b. Carrying the shopping
c. Birth control
Answer: Breathing in. Surprisingly, not everyone got this right. The diaphragm is an muscle of inspiration (you use it to breathe in). You don’t really use it to breathe out, or carry the shopping, and the diaphragm for birth control is a whole different ballgame…
7. The only thing in your vocal tract that doesn’t move is…
a. Your hard palate
b. Your larynx
c. Your eyebrows
Answer: Your hard palate (it’s the only bone structure in this list and forms part of your skull).
19 people thought your larynx doesn’t move. But it needs to move up and down hundreds of times a day to swallow – that’s why it’s slung from muscles and ligaments rather than attached directly to another bone. And if you decide to fix your larynx in one position to sing (and we don’t recommend it), it’s a personal choice rather than a physical necessity.
37 people said your eyebrows, but of course your eyebrows aren’t in your vocal tract and have nothing to do with the sound you make (unless you use wiggling your eyebrows as a method of creating vibrato…)
8. In order to stop nasality you need to…
a. Close the doorway into the nose
b. Make a bigger space in the mouth
Answer: Close the doorway into the nose.
You have two entrances/exits in the vocal tract, your mouth and your nose. The soft palate acts as a doorway between the two spaces – it opens to allow air in and out through the nose, and closes to block the nasal spaces off. You do this when you swallow anything, otherwise it would all come down your nose instead of going into the oesophagus.
80 people thought that making a bigger space in the mouth would stop nasality. Ironically, given that muscles for the soft palate (palatoglossus) connect to the tongue, you’re MORE likely to become nasal if you make a bigger space inside, as that usually involves pulling the tongue down and back, potentially pulling the soft palate down with it.
There is some confusion about the causes and fixes for nasality in the singing and speaking world, which is why we created an entire technique DVD for nasality and the soft palate!
9. Men’s vocal folds are…
a. Usually longer and thicker than women’s
b. Prone to saying things they don’t mean
c. A complete mystery
No, actually, it’s a. – usually longer and thicker than women’s
10. Your voice will be healthier if every day you drink…
a. A litre of strong black coffee
b. A bottle of claret
c. About 2 litres of plain water
Answer: About 2 litres of plain water.
The advice varies on the amount (The British Voice Association leaflet recommends 6-8 glasses a day), but water will hydrate your body tissues and this contributes to healthy voice. Incidentally, the water doesn’t actually touch your vocal folds directly – if it did you’d probably choke.
Apologies to the slightly incoherent singer who recommended a bottle of claret.
11. Most songs cover…
a. 1.5 octaves, that’s comfortable for me
b. 5 notes, small but perfectly formed
c. 5 octaves, I put all my whistle and creak notes into every song
Answer: 1.5 octaves, that’s comfortable for me.
Most songs cover around 1.5 octaves, whether they’re classical, pop, rock, musical theatre or folk. A surprising number of respondents put 5 notes. To be honest, we wracked our brains to think of a song that only uses 5 notes. Can anyone help us with suggestions?
And to the handful of people who put 5 octaves into every song? Remember it’s not how big it is…
12. A professional voice user…
a. Has studied voice for years
b. Uses their voice for work more than 5 hours a day
c. Competes in the X-Factor competition
Answer: Uses their voice for work more than 5 hours a day.
We weren’t surprised to find over 80 people got this wrong. There is a myth that a professional voice user must be highly trained. Unfortunately for a lot of people who have to use their voice for their job, this isn’t always the case. Many people in this situation (sports coaches, clergymen, barristers, group leaders and teachers) have no formal vocal training.
We created the 5 Minute Vocal Warmup CD following our voice coaching sessions with the Microsoft Headquarters people, who were presenting to groups for hours every day with no vocal technique to fall back on.
13. Having a healthy voice means…
a. You can sing higher and louder than anyone else in your country
b. You can express yourself clearly without getting a tired voice
c. You have your own YouTube channel
Answer: You can express yourself clearly without getting a tired voice.
Thanks once again for taking part in our World Voice Day Quiz.
We gave away over £7,000 of voice training webinars as prizes.