Hand signals in Estill Voice Training® help visualize the movement of structures in your voice production system.

Estill Voice International Founding Partner, Mary McDonald Klimek, EMCI

The hand signals that we use today grew out of those used in choral conducting by Dr. Ronald Bevin, an Estill pioneer back in the 1980s. The hand signals still conduct group practice, but they also instruct by providing an external model of internal structural change. Hand signals also serve as reminders that most structures have a continuum of movement used in application, although extreme and midpoint positions may be targeted in the practice of the figures.

Estill Voice International Founding Partner, Mary McDonald Klimek, explains the reasoning behind the hand signals for three Estill Voice Training® structures.

True Vocal Folds: Onset/ Offset

In this hand signal the “v” of the fingers represents the position and movement of the true vocal folds. The fingers are closed in preparation for the glottal, the timing of onset and offset are conducted.

In the abrupt aspirate the fingers close and open abruptly. In the gradual aspirate, the fingers close and open gradually.

In the smooth the delicate timing or vocal full closure and breath are indicated by the fingertip and thumb.

True Vocal Folds: Body-Cover

In body cover, the thumbs are down on the fist, as the fists rattle for slack.

The hands straighten for thick.

The thumbs tuck under as the fingers come together for thin.

In the stiff condition, the back of the hands and the wrists raise indicating the plane change, while the fingers model the incomplete or fleeting closure of the True Vocal Folds.


For the velum figure, the hands represent different components of the velopharyngeal port, and different points of contact, as the oral cavity and nasal cavity are closed off from the resonating vocal tract. The vertical hand represents the posterior pharyngeal wall, the fingers, the velum, and the thumb, the back of the tongue for low, mid and high. The terms associated with the options for this figure can be confusing to students, so I often demonstrate and conduct up against the side of my head.

Low Velum

Mid Velum

High Velum

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