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Singing Like Pavarotti: Newsletter Challenge (May 2012)

Posted April 30, 2012 4:59 PM
Pathfinder Tags: challenge questions

This month's Challenge Question: Specs & Techs from GlobalSpec:

Everybody sings in the shower. When we sing in the shower our voice sounds strong and beautiful even if we do not have the vocal structure of Pavarotti. Why is this?

And the answer is:

A strong and beautiful voice makes use of the resonance where it is produced. Resonance is the key. A bathroom is in fact a resonator. Resonance can be produced in the shower in three directions: floor to ceiling, front and back wall, and between two side walls. When we sing in the shower a standing wave can be produced in any (and all) of these three directions. For the fundamental frequency an antinode at each end and a node at the center in that direction are formed. For the second harmonic (twice the fundamental frequency) three antinodes (at the ends and the center) and two nodes (at ¼ and ¾ distance) are formed. For the higher order harmonics we see the same pattern. To produce this standing wave, the shower singer must move in order not to be standing in a node; by selecting the proper location inside the shower our voice will be strong (without having to scream; the resonator helps us) and pleasing if we are located at the antinode of the fundamental or at antinodes of harmonics.

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#1

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

04/30/2012 5:22 PM

For one thing you hear yourself much better and can correct tone much easier. Professional musicians use monitors or earphones to achieve the same effect.

Second, reverberation helps disguise vocal errors in pitch and volume. That is one trick karaoke machines use. The ear does not pick up tonal faults as easily when there are a lot of complex sounds at different phases. The reverberation also allows you to sing with less volume to get the same dB level needed in an acoustically dead room and thus is a little easier to maintain voice control.

The third, and perhaps most important, is that no one is recording what you are actually singing. If you ever had a chance to hear yourself singing you would understand this right away. Your perception of what you sound like while singing is very much different than what it really sounds like.

Listening to a recording of yourself allows you to critically hear what you really did along with all of the faults and errors you made. When singing you really do not pick up on these things very well unless you have had a lot of training.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

04/30/2012 5:37 PM

"Your perception of what you sound like while singing is very much different than what it really sounds like."

What? You mean I probably don't sound like Willy Nelson? Can I at least sound sort of like Kris Kristofferson?

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#3
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

04/30/2012 7:21 PM

Only in the vacuum of space will you both be equal. :)

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#15
In reply to #3

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 9:15 AM

"Only in the vacuum of space will you both be equal."

So, there is hope. Thank you for the kind words AH.

Signed, voice like Gilbert Gottfried.

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

04/30/2012 7:22 PM

Or Tom Waits?

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#5
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

04/30/2012 7:23 PM

1/5th of Scotch and Tom Waits is the cure for the Christmas blues.

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#8
In reply to #2

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 3:31 AM

Nope. You get to sound like a cross between Cher and Barbara Streisand.

Or Aled Jones in his "Snowman" days if you irritate me....

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#9
In reply to #1

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 4:08 AM

"reverberation helps disguise vocal errors in pitch and volume"

The same reason that so many of the mediocre singers nowdays use multi-tracking.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 6:43 AM

So many good singers do as well.

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#40
In reply to #10

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 7:29 PM

I heard a Michael Buble' song the other day and I swear it was electronically altered with one of those auto-tune devices. I hate auto-tune and I hated that song.

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#11
In reply to #1

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 7:26 AM

That is one trick karaoke machines use.

I've always maintained that the trick behind karaoke machines, is booze. The singing not only sounds great, but the people singing become much more handsome/beautiful to members of the opposite sex. Prohibition would wipe the karaoke machine off the map.

My theory on sounding good in the shower, is that the white noise created by the splashing water, combined with the reverb, contains all of the frequencies needed for the brain to fill in the blanks and make the person sound just like the actual artist that sings the song. The white noise also disguises our own voice to the point that we are more able to hear the original song that is playing in our head.

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#14
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 9:07 AM

Well, you can get that same effect without the water running, so it can't be that.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 10:46 AM

I am surprised that your usual command of logic and erudition seems to be missing something (to me). "same effect"? If you mean you can get the same effect without the water running, or that or that you can sing better with white noise but no water, then maybe it could be that, whatever "that" is. Another effect of white noise is that the increase in volume needed (or allowed) to sing over it makes it easier to control the voice pitch and voluntary resonances, at least for us amateur singers. Perhaps we can agree that all of these shower characteristics have some effect on some people. The biggest effect it has on me is that I feel that I am free to make noise without the risk of serious criticism of technique by those I respect (like you).

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#19
In reply to #16

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 12:12 PM

My name is mud. :(

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#24
In reply to #19

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 5:05 PM

Don't be so hard on yourself.......................you might just be a really good singer.

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#42
In reply to #19

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 7:52 PM

You *would* have to fess up! That one 'd' didn't fool anyone.

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#60
In reply to #42

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/09/2012 12:14 AM

could be me

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#23
In reply to #16

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 4:46 PM

Thanks. I was gonna say, the running water/white noise, sure helps me. The more the better.

Stand me next to a giant waterfall, and I'll sound exactly like Pavarotti standing next to a giant waterfall.

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#41
In reply to #23

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 7:36 PM

In my case the steam from the shower also helps open my sinuses and loosen my vocal chords. I get better command of the notes.

I find it hard to sing well after being in an air conditioned office all day. My throat and sinuses are dried out.

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#44
In reply to #23

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 8:58 PM

Funny, Pavarotti says he sounds like you standing next to a waterfall. Says it's where he gets his inspiration!

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#47
In reply to #44

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 10:10 PM

Ah (or maybe I should say Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) you do know he died in 2007, right?

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#48
In reply to #47

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 10:57 PM

Well, you're still living, right, and he's not? There you are. He must look up to you.

And did you notice Kramarat is speaking in the present tense? This means Pavarotti isn't dead - or Kramarat is.

And to think all this time we've been talking to a dead spider.

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#49
In reply to #48

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/03/2012 7:17 AM

I didn't know he was dead.

I guess I don't need the waterfall anymore. In the present tense, I'll always sound better than him.

Was Pavarotti good?

It must be my complete lack of culture and sophistication. Opera music has always sounded horrible to me.

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#50
In reply to #49

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/03/2012 9:58 AM

I didn't appreciate classical voice (opera, if you will) until I tried doing it myself. It was not only one of the hardest courses I took at uni, it was by far the most fun I've ever had in college. In the process I gained a whole new appreciation for the sheer skill and raw talent exhibited by Pavarotti, Domingo and other Tier 1 classical singers like them.

One might not like the genre overall - 'opera singing' (and acting, as many songs are from plays) - but Pavarotti's voice was simply incredible.

At one point in a performance during which Pavarotti was suffering from a bad cold (of all things!) he couldn't hit certain high notes, but the audience couldn't tell. Why? Pavarotti's voice was so much like that of a fine violin - even with a cold - that you couldn't tell that what you were hearing was not Pavarotti's voice, but the sound of the First Chair's violin. Pavarotti could sing like a Stradivarius, I kid you not. The man was absolutely amazing.

My voice coach sang at the Met and so did her husband. Both were professional classical singers, retired. When you sing onstage without the help of a mic, you must project your voice so that those in the very back can hear you clearly. Most people sing "from the chest up" but, to sing like Pavarotti, you must project your voice much as does a drill sergeant - from the belly. In the classical jargon, this is called "supporting" your voice.

My coach demonstrated such support by holding a note loud and clear whilst pushing the studio's wheeled grand piano across the floor using only his belly. Meanwhile the note he was singing did not waver at all. I had a whole new appreciation that day for the skill, effort and training these singers possess by the time they step onstage. You'd be amazed how much work went into the apparently effortless singing of a Pavarotti.

I might not like the song particularly, but what Pavarotti brought to the music was always simply incredible. There's no other word for it.

I understand he also began his career in the shower.

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#51
In reply to #50

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/03/2012 10:07 AM

Oh I understand. I also know that it's a lot of work. I have a lot of respect for anyone that can make music............regardless of the instrument.

I wasn't dissing Pavarotti, just acknowledging the fact that I'm a Neanderthal that likes beer, bluegrass, rock and roll, etc.

Much like my dislike of opera music, I'll never understand why someone would pay $200+ for a bottle of fine wine, when they could run down to the liquor store and pick up a big jug of blended whiskey for around $20.

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#52
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/03/2012 10:21 AM

It didn't occur to me that you were dissing the music at all, but rather that you were simply expressing a personal preference. I like all kinds of music, even some kinds of dubstep, such as Skrillex's First of the Year (Equinox).

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#53
In reply to #52

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/03/2012 10:42 AM

Yuck!!!! I liked the short piano piece. You can keep the rest of it.

I feel bad that I don't like opera. I feel the same about modern country music........................I recognize the talent...........just can't get my brain to like it. It gets difficult in NC. I'm in the minority.

Modern rap and techno music.............forgetaboutit. Then again, I don't mind the Beastie Boys or Rage Against The Machine. Who knows?

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#54
In reply to #53

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/03/2012 11:04 AM

I like songs on their own merits (as I hear them) rather than liking or disliking entire genres or even artists (some Led Zeppelin I like, some I don't). Thank goodness for playlists!

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#55
In reply to #54

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/03/2012 11:07 AM

Very true.

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#6

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

04/30/2012 8:06 PM

The voice is produced by the vocal cords, the voice then rises up through the throat, and into the bone structure of the head, just like a stringed instrument. This then resonates in the bath room. When not in the bath room where there is no resonance one can only hear the vibration of the vocal cords and not the added quality of ones bone structure, just like a string vibrating by itself, with no added tonal quality.

Regards JD.

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#18
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 12:11 PM

Almost all of the acoustic volume (power) generated by the human voice is from the oscillation of the vocal chords (vocal folds) just below the larynx and the resonating sound is coupled (amplified) through the larynx and throat into the open air.

Virtually none of the sound is projected or generated into the ambient environment from the human bone structure, although, bone will conduct sound internally very well.

The analogy between a stringed wooden instrument and the human voice is a very poor one and a woodwind instrument would be a much better comparison.

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#26
In reply to #18

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 6:19 PM

The singing voice is created in the larynx by air passing through the vocal cords, it then rises as a Column of air up into the mouth to hit the soft palate, which then vibrates the air above in the head, which then transfers the sound into the bone structure of the head. I suggest that you read the works of E Herbert Caesari.

Regards JD.

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#27
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 7:38 PM

Thanks, but the bone structure does nothing to produce sound external to the body. You can prove that yourself - just listen to someone talking. Sound exits the mouth, not the parietal bone.

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#28
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 8:23 PM

Talking and singing are not the same? Talking produces sound at the front of the mouth singing does not. There has been a lot of disagreement over the year as to the correct way to produce a singing voice, one school of thought is that the voice is foreword, and the other school says that it is vertical. I have studied singing for over 40 years, singing in opera and operetta choruses, and have personally experienced an intense column of air rising up into the head. If one sings forward the vocal cords clash producing noddles on the cords that ruins the voice.

Regards JD.

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#29
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 8:29 PM

I undid JD's OT. Whether it's true or not..............who knows? But it's not OT.

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#30
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 9:04 PM

AH (#18) had already said that bone conducts sound well internally, but not externally.

JD (#26) apparently did not read AH's second paragraph. As a result, JD didn't really contradict AH, although he was a bit snide. That was thus OT, and I marked it so.

AH (#27) responded well; GA.

JD (#28) was again irrelevant. His personal anecdote about air column said nothing about bone structures conducting sound to the ambient air.

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#32
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 9:32 PM

I am sorry if I come across as snide it was not intentional. I believe it is bone structure that gives each voice its tonal quality, thus enabling you to identify a person by his voice. A violin does not sound like a guitar, a guitar does not sound like a mandolin. And yes AH has a interesting point of view.

Regards JD.

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#33
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Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 10:12 PM

I am not an expert on singing nor do I sing, but having completed my undergraduate studies in medicine and anatomy I can say that soft tissues work to produce the modulation and timber of voice in conjunction with breath control. Bone will not produce audible sound external to the body because it is encapsulated in soft tissue and will therefore not conduct or project sound into the atmosphere.

Acoustics is not my profession, but as a hobbyist I have spent extensive time (and money) building transducer enclosures and even dabbled with acoustic instruments. The principles that give a wooden stringed instrument its color and tone are not the same principles that govern one's voice. In the case of the instrument (or even the vibrations of the walls of a speaker enclosure) the wood surface vibrates and resonates to produce pressure waves at the air-wood interface.

When you apply a layer of soft damping material to the walls of an instrument or speaker enclosure the result is a dampening of the walls, which quickly reduces the acoustic transmission. I even designed the walls of my latest speaker cabinet with a viscus material sandwiched between two layers of 3/4" thick birch plywood to absorb and reduce wall resonances. It worked.

Encapsulated bone in soft tissue simply does not have enough acoustic energy to act as a transducer of sound. It may help in modifying the timber, color, or tone of voice, but it will not act as an agent to transmit and couple vibration to the surrounding air and produce sound.

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#34
In reply to #30

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 10:32 PM

You guys need to help me make up my damned mind, whether this place is kind and gentle, or snide. My vote, is to just let it roll.

The people that don't know what they're talking about, will reveal themselves on their own.....................and it doesn't take long.

I've also witnessed OT votes coming out of nowhere lately. Lots of them.

Thanks for being honest.

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#35
In reply to #29

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 11:51 PM

Oh great. 6 OTs. I quit singing in the shower years ago, when I realized that the spashing water itself, contained voices.

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#7

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 1:32 AM

It helps a lot to be really comfortable with yourself, and a hot shower sure helps that. Add any medicines you use to sleep better :) and the drain gurgling is a song...

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#12

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 7:44 AM

The structure of most showers box like with hard smooth walls. The hard walls reflect sound making your voice sound louder. The box structure causes sound to reflect many times causing reverberation. And the size of the structure cause resonance in the lower frequencies making your voice sound lower and fuller then it is.

"Everybody sings in the shower." I'd like to change this to everybody has sang in the shower at least once. Even with all this help of the shower I know I'm not ready for American Idol.

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#45
In reply to #12

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 9:01 PM

Imagine how American Idol's ratings would skyrocket if they featured a shower onstage...

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#46
In reply to #12

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 9:05 PM

This one's my fave 'Idol' show of all time: Britain's Got Talent, 2009, Episode I.

I still get chills watching this.

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#13

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 8:37 AM

Resonance.

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#17

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 11:29 AM

The high humidity is good for the vocal chords and the seclusion allows one to be less inhibited which causes a more relaxed and open technique.
Del
Or maybe this is just bull.

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#20
In reply to #17

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 12:36 PM

Secluded but not necessarily alone

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#21
In reply to #20

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 1:02 PM

Indeed, I chose my worms carfully.
Del

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#22

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 4:42 PM

Humans breath in a different way when in the presences of water, even a shower, I would guess. The diaphragm does this and makes the sound fuller, more purposeful. The same happens when one yawns, try it, to hit a note when yawning out.

The reverb trick assists the delusion and keeps the singing where it belongs, for most. Talent shows should be equipped with a shower cube on stage so everyone gets a chance.

When birds chime in you know you're onto something, outside of the shower that is.

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#25

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 5:35 PM

I sing just as lousy anywhere...

Only thing about the shower is I'm already naked and vulnerable with nothing left to hide.

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#43
In reply to #25

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 7:54 PM

So are you saying the webcam isn't concealed either?

There goes the neighbourhood!

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#31

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/01/2012 9:24 PM

When I take a shower, I am happy...

When I am happy, I sing good songs...

Therefore, when I take a shower, I sing good songs...

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#36

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 1:04 AM

Reverberation is maybe the key why you perceive your voice to sound like Pavarotti.

I'm saying "perceive" because nobody really thinks the way you do. It is actually you who only think it is.

There's a saying, which I can't exactly remember who said, but it goes something like this "...sing like nobody is listening and you will realize how good you can sound". So maybe, that is the principle behind why people perceive that they good sound when they sing in the shower. It's not really the acoustical mechanism of the bathroom that gives the effect but it is something more of letting it all out without inhibitions.

In the end, everybody has the talent. It is only just a matter of letting stage fright get in the way. And that is what makes a good singer from those who are not.

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#37

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 2:31 AM

The shape and size ,of the mouth and nasal passages, along with the larynx and throat are controllable thru the muscular system under conscious control. The sinuses of the head (which some people refer to as bone structure) have a more limited variation of shape, though their interaction with other spaces in the head can make their contribution to the singing voice greater or lesser. I used to sing tenorII next to a chorus singer who also sang tenor solos (tenorI), and I modeled my voice on his chorus voice. When he sang solo, he was naturally louder, and he added much more resonance through opening the spaces and the volume between. This actually made his tenor solo voice contain more lower frequency resonances than his chorus voice. Since the primary frequencies of tenor are higher, this made the whole voice resonance range wider, and thus "richer". Serious singers choose the resonance patterns they use, adjusting to the work being performed.

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#38
In reply to #37

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 4:12 AM

Excellent contribution.

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#58
In reply to #37

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/07/2012 4:48 PM

Excellent post!

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#39

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/02/2012 7:48 AM

You are the only person on the whole planet who hears yourself as you do, and it is why, when you listen to a recording of yourself, you sound so different to yourself than you expected. The reason for this is that you hear yourself in two ways: the first, through the air to your ears as do others; and secondly, by means of acoustic conduction through your head. The combination is what you hear, and it is heard only by you. Not by anyone else.

The shower is a small, enclosed space which has just enough reverberation to mask the minor flaws in one's singing voice, and provides a good level of volume to boot. There's not much there to absorb the sound, unless you happen to be a wookie.

I sing semi-professionally (classical, opera, Rat Pack, pop), and it took quite awhile for me to get used to hearing my voice on recordings. I used to commute long distances to work and back - 80 miles one-way - and so I took advantage of this time by constructing a miniature audio studio in my car which I used in my voice training. As my car stereo did not then have an audio input jack, I transmitted the mix on an unused FM channel and enlisted my car's stereo system to help replicate the interior of an auditorium, or a sound booth, or ... a shower. I could shift the pitch of my voice or my music up and down and reconstruct the acoustics of nearly environment I wished, all in the comfort of my car. I wore a professional-quality boom mic so that my hands were free to attend to my driving.

The setup was not only loads of fun, but it paid off handsomely in terms of my voice training. The bottom line was that I could accurately correlate what I heard of my voice with what my audience heard. Nothing is harder on a performer's peace-of-mind onstage than being unfamiliar with one's own voice coming through the sound system. Better to make all those mistakes first, in the car..er..shower.

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#56

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/06/2012 9:55 PM

i thought the reason was self delusion (watch idols first episodes of every season )

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#57

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/06/2012 10:04 PM

Pavaroti? Not quite

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#59

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/09/2012 12:07 AM

first: I'm not singing in the shower

second: base frequencies of the human voice are at 300Hz; this is equal to nearly 1m wavlength equal to the distance between two showerwalls

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#61
In reply to #59

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/09/2012 12:31 AM

change the size of the shower cabine (maybe to a square of 2m or 3m) and the sound will be changed to an echo

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#62
In reply to #59

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/09/2012 5:09 AM

Just 300? Well, that explains it. On that note, I understand The Sopranos wore vice grips until they could afford a larger place.

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#64
In reply to #62

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/23/2012 12:20 AM

it depends from your body

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#63

Re: Singing Like Pavarotti

05/22/2012 4:49 PM

Sound in an enclosed space makes one feel at home with singing.....emotions freely resound in the isolated place and reverberate more forcefully. similarly a flute sounds more forcefully in a forest or uninhabited place...

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