The Perception of Formant Tuning in Soprano Voices

Rebecca Vos, Damian Thomas Murphy, David Howard, Helena Daffern

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Introduction. At the upper end of the soprano range, singers adjust their vocal tract to bring one or more of its resonances (Rn) toward a source harmonic, increasing the amplitude of the sound; this process is known as resonance tuning. This study investigated the perception of (R1) and (R2) tuning, key strategies observed in classically trained soprano voices, which were expected to be preferred by listeners. Furthermore, different vowels were com- pared, whereas previous investigations have usually focused on a single vowel.
Methods. Listeners compared three synthetic vowel sounds, at four fundamental frequencies (f0), to which four tuning strategies were applied: (A) no tuning, (B) R1 tuned to f0, (C) R2 tuned to 2f0, and (D) both R1 and R2 tuned. Partici- pants compared preference and naturalness for these strategies and were asked to identify each vowel.
Results. The preference and naturalness results were similar for /ɑ/, with no clear pattern observed for vowel iden- tification. The results for /u/ showed no clear difference for preference, and only slight separation for naturalness, with poor vowel identification. The results for /i/ were striking, with strategies including R2 tuning both preferred and con- sidered more natural than those without. However, strategies without R2 tuning were correctly identified more often. Conclusions. The results indicate that perception of different tuning strategies depends on the vowel and perceptual quality investigated, and the relationship between the formants and (f0). In some cases, formant tuning was beneficial at lower f0s than expected, based on previous resonance tuning studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126.e1-126.e10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Voice
Issue number1
Early online date26 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • soprano
  • resonance
  • formant
  • tuning
  • perception

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