Glottal Onset: Start Right, Sing Right, Make Pitchy Singing A Thing Of The Past


Also known as:

glottal attack – hard attack – hard glottal attack

(I demonstrate a glottal onset in this post)

The glottal onset is characterised by the fact that unlike the aspirated onset (where the air starts before the vocal folds come together) the vocals are closed before the air flow is started. The air pressure from the lungs then builds up until the pressure is high enough to push the vocal folds open. This then starts phonation.

The glottal onset is the most tiring of the three main onsets. Work it little and often for the best results. A correctly executed glottal onset is not a bad thing a badly done glottal onset is not great for your singing and will quickly tire your voice. It may also after a time create vocal nodes.

Remember that all onsets that are done with an open throat will always be fine. I say this as often a restricted throat sound is associated with the glottal onset and this is incorrect.

Glottal onset tone

The tone of the glottal onset is quite a bright sound that is often the onset found with belting, screaming and shouting.

How to do a glottal onset?

Try this, imagine or go to lift something up that is a little heavy for you. As you do this your body will brace; it does this to create a stable body. The vocal folds will automatically close to help with this process. Make sure that it’s something that is only just heavy enough to activate the closing of the vocal folds. If you go too far with this then you will be over-compressing and closing the throat!

Now simply say AH. Another way to get this is to gently push against a wall until again you feel the vocal folds close, then say AH. Have a listen to the recording below for an example of me doing it.

Please note that in the first example I have over done the sound of the vocals coming together so that you can hear that they are together before the sound starts. The next two onsets are good with a nice open throat sound.

When would you use the glottal onset?

The glottal onset is often the onset that comes with a screaming or belting. In fact, most bright sounds have this onset. Have a listen to some belters and see if you can hear this onset at the beginning of their belts; In the belt tone, there is a balance of bright from the vocals and dark from the resonance.

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