The origin of vocal registers has generally been attributed to differential activation of cricothyroid and thyroarytenoid muscles in the larynx. Register shifts, however, have also been shown to be affected by glottal pressures exerted on vocal fold surfaces, which can change with loudness, pitch, and vowel. Here it is shown computationally and with empirical data that intraglottal pressures can change abruptly when glottal adductory geometry is changed relatively smoothly from convergent to divergent. An intermediate shape between large convergence and large divergence, namely, a nearly rectangular glottal shape with almost parallel vocal fold surfaces, is associated with mixed registration. It can be less stable than either of the highly angular shapes unless transglottal pressure is reduced and upper stiffness of vocal fold tissues is balanced with lower stiffness. This intermediate state of adduction is desirable because it leads to a low phonation threshold pressure with moderate vocal fold collision. Achieving mixed registration consistently across wide ranges of F0, lung pressure, and vocal tract shapes appears to be a balancing act of coordinating laryngeal muscle activation with vocal tract pressures. Surprisingly, a large transglottal pressure is not facilitative in this process, exacerbating the bi-stable condition and the associated register contrast.

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