Perhaps the most important component of the whole singing act is the start of the vibration of the vocal folds. The vibration of the vocal folds (or cords or bands or lips) is the source or the sound we produce. It causes disruptions in the air pressure inside the pharynx which sets the air inside sympathetically vibrating to the vibration of the tissue. This sympathetic air vibration is resonance which radiates out from the larynx eventually striking the ear drum of a listener.
Because the vocal cord vibration is where the vocal tone is started we can see that if it is not coordinated well we will not be able to get the result of a good tone. Now the question comes, how do we do it? Most singers and teachers believe that the vocal folds are not able to be directly controlled. This is completely false. The result of this mistaken belief is wide-spread poor coordination. The way to learn this is a process of developing sensitivity which allows us to coordinate the vocal cord action so it doesn’t happen with tightness or weight. It must be flexible.
I describe it with the help of my hands. We do not want to attack the voice like clapping the hands. This is like whacking the voice and is abusive. We hear this with young singers who are very uncoordinated. The cause of this is not the contact with the vocal cords but is more a lack of breath control. They are tightening the cords and pushing breath pressure against them starting the sound with a violent explosion. We need the cords to close, just not tightly and not with a build up of breath behind them. They should close, or better lay together, because we suspend the breath. Lamperti described this well by saying hold the breath not the voice. Many say not to hold the breath, which is true if you mean with the throat. But the breath must be held with the body in order to get a coordinated start. This is done by keeping the rib cage suspended open and resisting the temptation to collapse all the time. If this is done the body automatically compresses the breath in an upward direction with the abdomen.
The technique of sensitizing the vocal cords is helped by a simple exercise of a very light, or whispered, cough. This gives us a feel of where the vocal cords are and where we need to start. It is important not to be aggressive with this and use any breath pressure. It sounds like just a click and is almost inaudible. So it can be done anywhere to remind your sensations. Going back to using the hands to illustrate this it is like tapping the thumb and index fingertip together. Compared to the clapping of the violent version of a full cough this is much more gentle. The final step is to continue the action like a bow stroking a violin string. We suspend the breath with an open rib cage so the glottis closes with the vocal cords laying together. Then instead of tapping like the previous exercise we think of rubbing or rolling the edges of the folds together. Like rubbing your thumb and finger tip together without pressing them. We want to keep the contact, or connection, but not with too much pressure so we crush the vibration. We also don’t want to go the other direction and relax the connection and let unvocalized breath escape. We then keep that feeling going for the duration of the sung phrase.