Vocal cords or vocal folds?
The larynx is the structure known in layman’s terms as the voice box, and it really is like a little box of cartilage, sitting on top of the trachea (windpipe). The larynx is the housing for the vocal folds. When viewed from above, as with a laryngeal mirror or endoscope, the vocal folds appear to be two white bands. Long ago it was assumed they vibrated much like strings; hence the term vocal “cords,” which is still in pervasive use today. (“Chords” is an understandable misspelling perpetrated by musicians.) However, we now know that the vocal folds are not free-floating strings, but are multilayered structures that protrude out from the sides of the thyroid cartilage. One of the layers, the vocal ligament, is continuous with the conus elasticus, a ligament that lines the upper airway. Thus, the folds are anchored on the sides, but extend into the airway so that they are free to vibrate. Simply stated, the vocal folds are composed of a muscle that runs the length of the folds from front to back, which is covered by a multilayered sheath of mucosa. For the most part, it is the mucosa that vibrates, in a fashion that is more complex than simple strings or cords,making[DM1] vocal “folds” the more appropriate term. By the way, the space between the vocal folds is known as the glottis, so that anything having to do with vocal fold vibration may be referred to as “glottic” or “glottal.” Human vocal folds are so elegant, and so interesting. The purpose of this series of articles is to provide you with some simple ways of dispelling the vocal myths within your studio, so I won’t elaborate much here. But I do urge you to learn more about the vocal folds; some references are provided at the end of this article.