Vocal Cord Facts



  • Speaking and singing depend on the larynx (voice-box) in your neck.
  • The larynx has bands of stretchy fibrous tissue called the vocal cords, which vibrate (shake) as you breathe air out over them.
  • When you are silent, the vocal cords are relaxed and apart, and air passes freely.
  • When you speak or sing, the vocal cords tighten across the airway and vibrate to make sounds.
  • The vocal cords are soft flaps in the larynx, situated at the base of the throat. Our voices make sounds by vibrating these cords, as shown in the diagram.
  • The tighter the vocal cords are stretched, the less air can pass through them, so the higher pitched the sounds you make.
  • The basic sound produced by the vocal cords is a simple ‘lab’. But by changing the shape of your mouth, lips and especially your tongue, you can change this simple sound into letters and words.
  • Babies’ vocal cords are just 6 mm long.
  • Women’s vocal cords are about 20 mm long.
  • Men’s vocal cords are about 30 mm long. Because men’s cords are longer than women’s, they vibrate more slowly and give men deeper voices.
  • Boys’ vocal cords are the same length as girls’ until they are teenagers when they grow longer, making a boy’s voice ‘break’ and get deeper.