The Effect of Timbre, Pitch, and Vibrato on Vocal Pitch-Matching Accuracy

Sirisha Duvvuru, Molly Erickson
Journal of Voice 2016, 30 (3): 378.e1-378.e12

OBJECTIVE/HYPOTHESIS: This study seeks to examine how target stimulus timbre, vibrato, pitch, and singer classification affect pitch-matching accuracy.

STUDY DESIGN: This is a repeated-measures factorial design.

METHODS: Source signals were synthesized with a source slope of -12 dB/octave with and without vibrato at each of the pitches, C4, B4, and F5. These source signals were filtered using five formant patterns (A-E) constituting a total of 30 stimuli (5 formant patterns × 3 pitches × 2 vibrato conditions). Twelve sopranos and 11 mezzo-sopranos with at least 3 years of individual voice training were recruited from the University Of Tennessee, Knoxville, School of Music and the Knoxville Opera Company. Each singer attempted to match the pitch of all 30 stimuli presented twice in a random order.

RESULTS: Results indicated that there was no significant effect of formant pattern on pitch-matching accuracy. With increasing pitch from C4 to F5, pitch-matching accuracy increased in midpoint of the vowel condition but not in prephonatory set condition. Mezzo-sopranos moved toward being in tune from prephonatory to midpoint of the vowel. However, sopranos at C4 sang closer to being in tune at prephonatory but lowered the pitch at the midpoint of the vowel. Presence or absence of vibrato did not affect the pitch-matching accuracy. However, the interesting finding of the study was that singers attempted to match the timbre of stimuli with vibrato.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study show that pitch matching is a complex process affected by many parameters.

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