Also known as; the attack of the sound, start of tone, soft onset, easy onset or breathy onset.

What Is An Aspirated Onset?

An aspirate onset is when the vocal folds (cords) come together after the air flow has started from the breathing muscles as opposed to a glottal onset where the vocal folds are together before the air flow (exhaled breath) starts.

The aspirate onset is also sometimes called the breathy onset, airy onset, airy attack, soft onset or soft attack.

Aspirated Onset / Attack of The Tone

Aspirate Onset in Singing

Image from:

What does it sound like?

Say the word “Hot” several times, that escaping air sound before the “o” that is the air flow before the vocal folds connect on the “o” part of the word.

So the H is aspirated making sure that the vocal folds are open and there is air flow (exhaled breath). Then the “o” vowel brings the vocal folds together cleanly for an onset.

How to do an Aspirated Onset?

Let’s take the H from the exercise above and use it again but this time with the word HEY; as you can see I have used the H again as remember it gets the air flowing and the vocal folds open.

You try

In an assertive voice, say HEY!!!! HEY, YOU!!!! Imagine that you are shouting at someone who is about to steal your car!

HEY, YOU!!!!!

If your voice tends to be light and airy then work on being more assertive HEY otherwise the onset will not work correctly.

Although we have used the H here, any voiceless sound would do the job. What does voiceless mean? If you make a sound that does not involve the vocal folds vibrating, then it is called voiceless. Some examples would be; S, SH, F, P, T, H.

Play around with all of these as you may find one of them helps you get a better onset. Then use that voiceless consonant to help you understand how all the others should feel.

For example: Instead of “HEY” you could say “SHEY.”


When Would You Use an Aspirated Onset in Singing?

An aspirated onset is often used in light intermate singing as it encourages a light, airy sound. Although the aspirate can also be done with a lot more energy than this, as in laughing! Have a listen to your favourite singer and listen out for it.


If your voice is already light and airy, this might not be the best onset for you to start on. Often the glottal will give you a stronger vocal fold connection so that you don’t run out of air so quickly! You could also try the simultaneous onset as this is the happy middle ground. Make sure that you learn all three as they are all used in healthy, natural singing.

If you are still not sure if you are doing it correctly then taking one singing lesson with a good vocal coach will do the job. They will be able to identify the problem and give you an exercise like the one above or the one above but just give you a little more direction if you are just slightly off. This would then result in you running out of air quickly.

The Aspirated onset is one of the three main healthy onsets. The other two are the glottal onset and the simultaneous onset. These days we also have the creaky onset as well.

Other articles of mine you might find interesting:

Breathing for Singing

If you’re unsure about how to breathe for singing then this is the place to start.

20 Reasons to Take Singing Lessons

Thinking of taking singing lessons but not sure? Then read this article it may just give you the push that you need.

4 Great Vocal Techniques to Get Your Voice Going!

Every singer always needs an arsenal of great vocal techniques, here you may find a couple that you have not used before.