Riva Capellari

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Located in Brookside in the heart of Kansas City

Default Vocal Position

In last month’s issue, I introduced the term vocal habilitation: the “process of building and strengthening the voice to meet specific needs”. Poor vocal economy results in too much effort at input for too little vocal output.  In order to utilize the voice optimally, it is necessary to know the sound quality desired and to understand the inherent cost in achieving that sound.

The concept of equilibrium positions, i.e., “a condition in which all acting influences are cancelled by others, resulting in a stable, balanced or unchanging system” (1), is an important element in vocal training. Just as bridges and buildings may sway during high wind only to return to their original positions afterwards, in vocal habilitation, all the anatomical components necessary for vocal production: rib cage, larynx, articulators, etc., have positions of equilibrium that can be optimized for phonation. These “default” positions are altered every time there is a pitch, vowel or air pressure change. An alteration in one component triggers movement in the equilibrium position of other components (more air pressure for higher pitches, jaw and lip shapings for different vowels). Vocal training involves a never-ending readjustment of all the components to find the combined equilibrium position for the most efficient phonation. The goal of these “global optimization shifts” is to achieve a harmoniously working system. These positions should not be extreme or one-directional.  For example, muscles tend to work best at their mid-length range vs. maximal extension, giving a more or less option.  The old axiom, “moderation in all things” applies even here!


Vocology: The Science and Practice of Voice Habilitation. Ingo Titze & Katherine Verdolini Abbott. National Center for Voice and Speech, 2012.

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