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How do they do it? The difference between singing and speaking in female altos

Hall, Damien J. (2006) How do they do it? The difference between singing and speaking in female altos. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics, 12 (1). pp. 123-135. ISSN 1524-9549. (KAR id:29533)


This paper reports the first set of results of an investigation into the phonetic

correlates of female altos’ singing (compared to the extensive research which

has been done on males’ singing). Based on the author’s previous research

(Hall 2003), predictions for this experiment were that when producing a

‘singing’ sound:

- singers would increase the amplitude of H2 to a level above the

amplitude of H1

- at least the most experienced of the singers would produce a ‘singer’s


- some formant tuning of F1 and possibly F2 would be observed: that is,

singers would change the locations of F1 and F2 in order to amplify

their sound. The degree to which they needed to do this would depend

on f0 frequency.

(Two notes on terminology in this paper:

1) H1 here means ‘f0, the leftmost peak in the spectrum’; H2 refers to the

peak above f0 in frequency.

2) The terms 'f0' and 'pitch' are interchangeable.)

Data were collected from nine singers in this experiment. Analysis in this

paper concentrates on two of the nine: the singers who had the most and the

least singing experience.

The major finding is that female altos seem to use two techniques to amplify

their singing sound:

- amplifying H2 so that the spectrum shows it to have a higher amplitude

than H1 (this technique is referred to in this paper simply as ‘amplifying


- producing a singer’s formant.

Which of these strategies is used depends on the individual singer, her

amount of training / experience and the pitch-range in which she feels most


Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: phonetics, singing
Subjects: P Language and Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Damien Hall
Date Deposited: 18 May 2012 11:39 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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