The Nasal Musculature as a Control Panel for Singing—Why Classical Singers Use a Special Facial Expression?



      This study aimed to explain the possible reason why classical singers seem to spread their nostrils and raise their cheeks before starting to sing.

      Study Design

      This is an experimental study.


      Five subjects (three classical singers, two nonsingers) were investigated with nasofiberoscopy holding their breath after inhalation. The subjects were instructed to have a neutral expression first and then to take the singers' expression characterized by nostril flaring. In case of nonsingers, the special expression was rehearsed beforehand, guided by a classical singer. The following measurements were made: (1) height of soft palate, (2) area of the hypopharynx, (3) area of the epilaryngeal tube inlet (Aditus laryngis), and (4) dimensions of the (visible) glottis (length, width, and length-to-width ratio).


      All subjects raised the palate and widened the pharyngeal inlet, epilaryngeal inlet, and the glottis during “singer's expression.”


      The results suggest that classical singers may take advantage of breathing- and smelling-related connections between nasal and facial muscles and the larynx to avoid a hard glottal attack and pressed phonation and possibly also to assist the production of mixed register (head voice), characterized by a relatively low adduction between the vocal folds.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Voice
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Rubin J.S.
        • Mathieson L.
        • Blake E.
        Posture and voice.
        J Sing. 2004; : 271-275
        • Kooijman P.G.C.
        • de Jong F.I.C.R.S.
        • Oudes M.J.
        • et al.
        Muscular tension and body posture in relation to voice handicap and voice quality in teachers with persistent voice complaints.
        Folia Phoniatr Logop. 2005; 57: 134-147
        • Zenker W.
        • Zenker A.
        Uber die Regelung der Stimmlippenspannung durch von aussen eingreifende.
        Mechanismen. 1960; 12: 1-36
        • Thomasson M.
        • Sundberg J.
        Consistency of phonatory breathing patterns in professional operatic singers.
        J Voice. 1999; 13: 529-541
        • Zemlin W.R.
        Speech and Hearing Science. Anatomy and Physiology.
        2nd ed. Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ1981
        • Zenker W.
        • Glaninger J.
        Die Stärke des Trachealzuges beim lebenden Menschen und seine Bedeutung fur die Kehlkopfmechanic.
        Z Biol. 1959; 111: 154-166
        • Iwarsson J.
        • Thomasson M.
        • Sundberg J.
        Effects of lung volume on the glottal voice source.
        J Voice. 1998; 12: 424-433
        • Fant G.
        Acoustic Theory of Speech Production.
        Mouton, The Hague1960
        • Sundberg J.
        Articulatory interpretation of the singing formant.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 1974; 55: 838-844
        • Titze I.
        • Story B.
        Acoustic interactions of the voice source with the lower vocal tract.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 1997; 101: 2234-2243
        • Sundberg J.
        What's so special about singers.
        J Voice. 1990; 4: 107-119
        • Sundberg J.
        Formant technique in a professional female singer.
        Acustica. 1975; 32: 89-96
        • Rothenberg M.
        Cosí fan tutte and what it means or nonlinear source-tract acoustic interaction in the soprano voice and some implications for the definition of vocal efficiency.
        in: Baer T. Sasaki C. Harris K.S. Vocal Fold Physiology: Laryngeal Function in Phonation and Respiration. College-Hill Press, San Diego1986
        • Garnier M.
        • Henrich N.
        • Smith J.
        • et al.
        Vocal Tract Adjustments in the High Soprano Range.
        Acoustical Society of America, Voice Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA2010: 3771-3780
        • Miller R.
        Solutions for Singers: Tools for Performers and Teachers.
        Oxford University Press, New York2004
        • McQuade J.H.
        The effect of the position of the zygomatic musculature of the experienced baritone singer on the voice spectra.
        J Singing. 2016; 72: 441-449
        • Stone J.B.
        You Can Sing.
        Amsco Publications, New York1995
        • Miller R.
        English, French, German and Italian Techniques of Singing.
        Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Maryland, USA1977
        • Theorell T.
        Noter Om Musik Och Hälsa.
        Karolinska Institutet University Press, Stockholm2009
        • Schuenke M.
        • Schulte E.
        • Schumacher U.
        • et al.
        Head, Neck and Neuroanatomy. Atlas of Anatomy,Vol. 3. Thieme Medical Publishers, Stuttgart, Germany2016
        • Geneid A.
        Tips and tricks for laryngeal examination.
        in: am Zehnhoff-Dinnesen A. Wiskirska-Woznica B. Neumann K. Nawka T. European Manual of Phoniatrics 1. Springer, 2019 (Available at:)
        • Menon J.R.
        Flaring of ALA Nasi: A reliable diagnostic sign for abductor spasmodic dysphonia.
        Int J Phonosurgery Laryngol. 2011; 1: 41-43
        • Kratschmer F.
        On reflexes from the nasal mucous membrane on respiration and circulation.
        Respir Physiol. 2001; 127: 93-104
        • Verdolini K.
        • Druker D.G.
        • Palmer P.M.
        • et al.
        Laryngeal adduction in resonant voice.
        J Voice. 1998; 12: 315-327
        • Jiang J.J.
        • Titze I.R.
        Measurement of vocal fold intraglottal pressure and impact stress.
        J Voice. 1994; 8: 132-144
        • Sundberg J.
        Vocal fold vibration patterns and phonatory modes.
        STL-QPSR. 1994; 35: 2-3
        • Titze I.R.
        Bi-stable vocal fold adduction: a mechanism of modal-falsetto register shifts and mixed registration.
        J Acoust Soc Am. 2014; 135: 2091-2101
        • Kmucha S.T.
        • Yanagisawa E.
        • Estill J.
        Endolaryngeal changes during high-intensity phonation: videolaryngoscopic observations.
        J Voice. 1990; 4: 346-354
        • Cookman S.
        • deVore K.
        Inside the Singing Voice, Laryngeal Teaching Series. Vol. 4. Total Voice Inc, Chicago2006