Acoustic and perceptual appraisal of vocal gestures in the female classical voice

Dianna T Kenny, Helen F Mitchell
Journal of Voice 2006, 20 (1): 55-70
Long-term average spectra (LTAS) have identified features in the sounds of singers and have compared different vocal qualities based on energy changes that occur during different vocal tasks. In this study, we compared the perceptual ratings of vocal quality of expert pedagogues with acoustic measures performed on LTAS. Fifteen expert judges rated 24 samples with six repeats of six advanced singing students under two conditions: "optimal" (O), which represented the application of the maximal open throat technique; and "suboptimal" (SO), which represented the application of the reduced open throat technique. LTAS were performed on each singing sample, and two conventional assessments of peak energy height [singing power ratio (SPR)] and peak area [energy ratio (ER)] were calculated on each LTAS. Perceptual scores, SPR, and ER were rank ordered. We then compared perceptual rankings with rankings of acoustic measures (SPR and ER) to assess whether these acoustic measurements matched the perceptual judgments of vocal quality. Although we found the expected significant relationship between SPR and ER, there was no relationship between perceptual ratings of vocal samples or singers based on SPR or ER. These findings suggest that because LTAS measures are not consistent with perceptual ratings of vocal quality, such measurements cannot define a voice of quality. Future research with LTAS to assess vocal quality should consider alternative measures that are more sensitive to subtle differences in vocal parameters.

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