JOHAN SUNDBERG : Perceptual aspects of singing*

Journal of Voice

Volume 8, Issue 2, June 1994, Pages 106-122
Journal of Voice

Perceptual aspects of singing*



The relations between acoustic and perceived characteristics ofvowel sounds are demonstrated with respect to timbre, loudness, pitch, and expressive time patterns. The conditions for perceiving an ensemble of sine tones as one tone or several tones are reviewed. There are two aspects of timbre of voice sounds: vowel quality and voice quality. Although vowel quality depends mainly on the frequencies of the lowest two formants, voice quality depends mainly on the frequencies of the higher formants. In particular, the center frequency of the so-called singer’s formant seems perceptually relevant. Vocal loudness, generally assumed to correspond closely to the sound pressure level, depends rather on the amplitude balance between the lower and the higher spectrum partials. The perceived pitch corresponds to the fundamental frequency, or for vibrato tones, the mean of this frequency. In rapid passages, such as coloratura singing, special patterns are used. Pitch and duration differences are categorically perceived in music. This means that small variations in tuning or duration do not affect the musical interval and the note value perceived. Categorical perception is used extensively in music performance for the purpose of musical expression because without violating the score, the singer may sharpen or flatten and lengthen or shorten the tones, thereby creating musical expression.



Key Words

Formant frequencies
Voice timbre
Vowel timbre
Fundamental frequency
Overtone singing synthesis
This is a revised version of the author’s presentation at the20th Annual Symposium: Care of the Professional Voice, Philadelphia, 1991.