Onsets are the attack of the sound, and when the attack is harsh it’s called a hard onset. A soft onset is when there is less of a burst on the start of phonation and the volume is consistent across the whole sound. Aspirate onsets instead start breathy and slide into phonation.
There are three main types of onset.
- hard onset
- soft onset
- aspirate onset
Hard onsets have a sudden attack and often are slightly louder than the rest of the sound.
These can sound harsh, and also have a tendency to bring out heavy vocal weight.
- pressed folds > airflow > phonation
- vocal folds start closed, pressed firmly together
- needs more pressure to start phonation than to continue it, leading to a burst
Soft onsets have either a sudden attack or a slight ramp and are consistent with the rest of the sound.
These are usually a little cleaner sounding than hard onsets.
- lightly closed folds > airflow > phonation
- vocal folds start closed, pressed only very lightly together
- only needs as much pressure as is needed in phonation, making the voice more consistent
Aspirate onsets start breathy and then go to phonation. “Haa” is an aspirate onset.
These typically are associated with breathiness.
- open folds > airflow > adding closure > phonation
- vocal folds start open and close in order to start phonation
- can encourage breathiness
- can discourage proper vocal fold closure at rest (rare)