Singing in a western classical music style, particularly in opera, the singer’s voice quite often approaches a very clear, pure musical tone. With the vocal cords roughly capable of vibrating between 60 to 1,100 times per second when singing, we hear a wide range of sound. At times, particularly at high pitches, the voice has only a musical quality and the speech aspect cannot be easily discerned. Think of the diva soprano singing an aria at the top of her range. This style of pure tone singing requires the most regular, most precise positioning and closure of the vocal cords.
By contrast there are popular or folk musicians who may have a very soft quality to their voice. Think of the sexy country or steamy cabaret singer. These particular types of musicians typically hold the back of their vocal cords apart so that air leak is part of the style.
There may be extreme air leak or even irregular vibrations in some genres. The false vocal cords can also be enlisted to vibrate and produce sound. Tuvan throat music or Heavy metal screaming may use these qualities to attract listeners.
Singing combines voice with speech to varying degrees depending on the style. A rapper could conceivably perform an entire song on a single note, emphasizing the spoken aspect of the music.
In singing, the emphasis on how the vocal cords vibrate generally rises above the words alone. In singing, we wish to do more than just communicate information. Varying the pitch and the volume adds a great deal of emotion. The singer intentionally varies sound production to produce these various tones and different degrees of air leak. These various forms of sound production deviate from the pure opening and closing described in the previous chapter, and when utilized intentionally are not impairments; they are music.