Automatic Assessment of Acoustic Parameters of the Singing Voice: Application to Professional Western Operatic and Jazz Singers

Claudia Manfredi, Davide Barbagallo, Giovanna Baracca, Silvia Orlandi, Andrea Bandini, Philippe H Dejonckere
Journal of Voice 2015, 29 (4): 517.e1-9

INTRODUCTION: The obvious perceptual differences between various singing styles like Western operatic and jazz rely on specific dissimilarities in vocal technique. The present study focuses on differences in vibrato acoustics and in singer's formant as analyzed by a novel software tool, named BioVoice, based on robust high-resolution and adaptive techniques that have proven its validity on synthetic voice signals.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: A total of 48 professional singers were investigated (29 females; 19 males; 29 Western operatic; and 19 jazz). They were asked to sing "a cappella," but with artistic expression, a well-known musical phrase from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, in their own style: either operatic or jazz. A specific sustained note was extracted for detailed vibrato analysis. Beside rate (s(-1)) and extent (cents), duration (seconds) and regularity were computed. Two new concepts are introduced: vibrato jitter and vibrato shimmer, by analogy with the traditional jitter and shimmer of voice signals. For the singer's formant, on the same sustained tone, the ratio of the acoustic energy in formants 1-2 to the energy in formants 3, 4, and 5 was automatically computed, providing a quality ratio (QR).

RESULTS: Vibrato rates did not differ among groups. Extent was significantly larger in operatic singers, particularly females. Vibrato jitter and vibrato shimmer were significantly smaller in operatic singers. Duration of vibrato was also significantly longer in operatic singers. QR was significantly lower in male operatic singers.

CONCLUSIONS: Some vibrato characteristics (extent, regularity, and duration) very clearly differentiate the Western operatic singing style from the jazz singing style. The singer's formant is typical of male operatic singers. The new software tool is well suited to provide useful feedback in a pedagogical context.

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