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Physics of Singing

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Emma Kromm

on 22 June 2013

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Transcript of Physics of Singing

The Physics of Singing
How Singing Works:
Properties of Singing
Pitch (Frequency)
Determined by the number of times that the vocal cords collide per second
When a bass sings a low A, his cords are colliding 55 times/second, while when a soprano sings a high C, her cords collide 1,047 times/second.
Volume (Amplitude)
Controlled by the magnitude of the vibrating object
Singing louder requires activating and vibrating more vocal cords
Measured in decibels
A Soprano singing a C6 produces 100-105 decibels
Tone (Timbre)
Determined by the fundamental frequency and the number of overtones
The overtone structure, or spectrum, of a voice makes it unique
The more overtones = the richer and fuller the tone
Overtone Singing/Throat Singing
"Overtone singing," as a technique, is a method of singing that allows a singer to utilize one of the natural harmonic partials in the overtone series of a sung pitch. In that way, two pitches can be audible simultaneously. To achieve this, the vocal tract is altered in the same way vowels are used in speech or singing. The singer usually creates a droning and unchanging fundamental pitch underneath a "melody" of overtones. This way of singing is completely natural and safe for the voice when done correctly.
There are many different ways in which singers (often unconsciously) vary their sound using physics
Singing With Others
Typically, choirs sing in a range of 20-30 cents from each other in fundamental frequency
The Lombard effect: being around other loud noises causes one to sing louder
The average range of choir singers is between 11 dB and 30 dB
3 parts of our bodies work together to produce sounds:
lungs (actuator, or driving force)
vocal folds (produce vibration)
vocal tract (provides space for resonance)
Sound waves are produced when the vocal chords oscillate and periodically stop the airstream from the lungs. A wave motion is thus produced in the chords. The larynx, also known as the human voice box, contains and protects the chords. When air is exhaled through the larynx, it produces a musical note.

Altering Tone
Singers can alter the tone of their voices by directing the resonance to different places, done by changing the shape of their vocal tracts. For example, a "nasally tone" is produced by directing resonance to the nose.
In general, to produce a fuller tone, singers will increase the space for resonance in their mouths by activating their soft palates. Decreasing the space in the back of the mouth results in a thinner tone (with fewer overtones).

The lips and tongue shape vowels; dark sounding vowels are produced by lips in a long shape, while bright ones.
General Tone

Often, when singers want a lighter tone that sounds better in higher registrars, they will direct resonance to the "Mask," which consists of the upper pharynx, the nasal cavity, and the teeth and lips. This technique is called using one's
"head voice."
Singers also posses a "chest voice," which is used to sing lower notes with more power. Resonance is directed to the oral cavity, middle pharynx, and soft palate.
When male singers wish to sing pitches far above their usual range, they employ their "falsetto." This voice is activated when the vocal cords are expanded and separated, allowing only the edges of the cords to vibrate instead of the entire cord.
Head Voice/Chest Voice/Falsetto
Sources Cited:

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