Clinical voice analysis of Carnatic singers

Ravikumar Arunachalam, Prakash Boominathan, Shenbagavalli Mahalingam
Journal of Voice 2014, 28 (1): 128.e1-128.e9

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Carnatic singing is a classical South Indian style of music that involves rigorous training to produce an "open throated" loud, predominantly low-pitched singing, embedded with vocal nuances in higher pitches. Voice problems in singers are not uncommon. The objective was to report the nature of voice problems and apply a routine protocol to assess the voice.

METHODS: Forty-five trained performing singers (females: 36 and males: 9) who reported to a tertiary care hospital with voice problems underwent voice assessment. The study analyzed their problems and the clinical findings.

RESULTS: Voice change, difficulty in singing higher pitches, and voice fatigue were major complaints. Most of the singers suffered laryngopharyngeal reflux that coexisted with muscle tension dysphonia and chronic laryngitis. Speaking voices were rated predominantly as "moderate deviation" on GRBAS (Grade, Rough, Breathy, Asthenia, and Strain). Maximum phonation time ranged from 4 to 29 seconds (females: 10.2, standard deviation [SD]: 5.28 and males: 15.7, SD: 5.79). Singing frequency range was reduced (females: 21.3 Semitones and males: 23.99 Semitones). Dysphonia severity index (DSI) scores ranged from -3.5 to 4.91 (females: 0.075 and males: 0.64). Singing frequency range and DSI did not show significant difference between sex and across clinical diagnosis. Self-perception using voice disorder outcome profile revealed overall severity score of 5.1 (SD: 2.7). Findings are discussed from a clinical intervention perspective.

CONCLUSIONS: Study highlighted the nature of voice problems (hyperfunctional) and required modifications in assessment protocol for Carnatic singers. Need for regular assessments and vocal hygiene education to maintain good vocal health are emphasized as outcomes.

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