The Vocal Tract Organ: A New Musical Instrument Using 3-D Printed Vocal Tracts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Downloads (Pure)


The advent and now increasingly widespread availability of 3-D printers is transforming our understanding of the natural world by enabling observations to be made in a tangible manner. This paper describes the use of 3-D printed models of the vocal tract for different vowels that are used to create an acoustic output when stimulated with an appropriate sound source in a new musical instrument: the Vocal Tract Organ. The shape of each printed vocal tract is recovered from magnetic resonance imaging. It sits atop a loudspeaker to which is provided an acoustic L-F model larynx input signal that is controlled by the notes played on a MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) device such as a keyboard. The larynx input is subject to vibrato with extent and frequency adjustable as desired within the ranges usually found for human singing. Polyphonic inputs for choral singing textures can be applied via a single loudspeaker and vocal tract, invoking the approximation of linearity in the voice production system, thereby making multiple vowel stops a possibility while keeping the complexity of the instrument in reasonable check. The vocal tract organ offers a much more human and natural sounding result than the traditional Vox Humana stops found in larger pipe organs, offering the possibility of enhancing pipe organs of the future as well as becoming the basis for a 'multi-vowel' chamber organ in its own right.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-667
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Voice
Issue number6
Early online date31 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • vocal tract
  • 3-D printing
  • MRI
  • Vox Humana
  • pipe organ

Cite this