Sunday, February 24, 2008


The relationship between pitch and frequency. The important point is that the same pitch distance/interval (i.e. octave) corresponds to an increasingly larger frequency distance

Pitch is the perceived fundamental frequency of a sound. While the actual fundamental frequency can be precisely determined through physical measurement, it may differ from the perceived pitch because of overtones, or partials, in the sound. The human auditory perception system may also have trouble distinguishing frequency differences between notes under certain circumstances. According to ANSI acoustical terminology, it is the auditory attribute of sound according to which sounds can be ordered on a scale from low to high.

Pitches may be described in various ways, including high or low, as discrete or indiscrete, pitch that changes with time (chirping) and the manner in which this change with time occurs: gliding; portamento; or vibrato, and as determinate or indeterminate. Musically the frequency of specific pitches is not as important as their relationships to other frequencies — the difference between two pitches can be expressed by a ratio or measured in cents. People with a sense of these relationships are said to have relative pitch while people who have a sense of the actual frequencies independent of other pitches are said to have "absolute pitch", or "perfect pitch".

During historical periods when instrumental music rose in prominence (relative to the voice), there was a continuous tendency for pitch levels to rise. This "pitch inflation" seemed largely due to instrumentalists competing with each other, each attempting to produce a brighter, more "brilliant", sound than that of their rivals. (In string instruments, this is not all acoustic illusion: when tuned up, they actually sound objectively brighter because the higher string tension results in larger amplitudes for the harmonics.) This tendency was also prevalent with wind instrument manufacturers, who crafted their instruments to generally play at a higher pitch than those made by the same craftsmen years earlier.

It should be noted too that pitch inflation is a problem only where musical compositions are fixed by notation. The combination of numerous wind instruments and notated music has therefore restricted pitch inflation almost entirely to the Western tradition.

On at least two occasions, pitch inflation has become so severe that reform became needed. At the beginning of the 17th century, Michael Praetorius reported in his encyclopedic Syntagma musicum that pitch levels had become so high that singers were experiencing severe throat strain and lutenists and viol players were complaining of snapped strings. The standard voice ranges he cites show that the pitch level of his time, at least in the part of Germany where he lived, was at least a minor third higher than today's. Solutions to this problem were sporadic and local, but generally involved the establishment of separate standards for voice and organ ("Chorton") and for chamber ensembles ("Kammerton"). Where the two were combined, as for example in a cantata, the singers and instrumentalists might perform from music written in different keys. This system kept pitch inflation at bay for some two centuries.

In 1939, an international conference recommended that the A above middle C be tuned to 440 Hz, now known as concert pitch. This standard was taken up by the International Organization for Standardization in 1955 (and was reaffirmed by them in 1975) as ISO 16. The difference between this and the diapason normal is due to confusion over which temperature the French standard should be measured at. The initial standard was A = 439 Hz, but this was superseded by A = 440 Hz after complaints that 439 Hz was difficult to reproduce in a laboratory owing to 439 being a prime number.

Despite such confusion, A = 440 Hz is arguably the most common tuning used around the world. Many, though certainly not all, prominent orchestras in the United States and United Kingdom adhere to this standard as concert pitch. In other countries, however, higher pitches have become the norm: A = 442 Hz is common in certain continental European and American orchestras (the Boston symphony being the best-known example), while A = 445 Hz is heard in Germany, Austria, and China.

In practice, as orchestras still tune to a note given out by the oboe, rather than to an electronic tuning device (which would be more reliable), and as the oboist may not have used such a device to tune in the first place, there is still some variance in the exact pitch used. Solo instruments such as the piano (which an orchestra may tune to if they are playing together) are also not universally tuned to A = 440 Hz. Overall, it is thought that the general trend since the middle of the 20th century has been for standard pitch to rise, though it has been rising far more slowly than it has in the past.

Friday, February 15, 2008


In the anatomy of mammals, the thoracic diaphragm is a sheet of muscle extending across the bottom of the ribcage. The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity and performs an important function in respiration. A diaphragm in anatomy can refer to other flat structures such as the urogenital diaphragm or pelvic diaphragm, but "the diaphragm" generally refers to the thoracic diaphragm. Other vertebrates such as amphibians and reptiles have diaphragms or diaphragm-like structures, but important details of the anatomy vary, such as the position of lungs in the abdominal cavity.

The Diaphragm is a dome-shaped musculofibrous septum which separates the thoracic from the abdominal cavity, its convex upper surface forming the floor of the former, and its concave under surface the roof of the latter. Its peripheral part consists of muscular fibers which take origin from the circumference of the thoracic outlet and converge to be inserted into a central tendon.

The diaphragm is crucial for breathing and respiration. During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts, thus enlarging the thoracic cavity (the external intercostal muscles also participate in this enlargement). This reduces intra-thoracic pressure: in other words, enlarging the cavity creates suction that draws air into the lungs. When the diaphragm relaxes, air is exhaled by elastic recoil of the lung and the tissues lining the thoracic cavity in conjunction with the abdominal muscles which act as an antagonist paired with the diaphragm's contraction.

It is not responsible for all the breathing related to voice, a common misconception espoused by many teachers but few great singers. One has more control over the abdominals and intercostals than the actual diaphragm, which lacks proprioceptive nerve endings. By training proper posture and balance in the rest of the body, the diaphragm naturally strengthens and works in concert with surrounding structures rather than in isolation.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gospel Singer

OUCH! :)

Monday, February 4, 2008

Vocal Warm-Ups

Many singers engage in some form of daily routine or warm-up prior to singing; however, many singers do not know the rationale behind choosing various warm-ups or their actual function. Unfortunately, these questions also elude researchers. A study by Elliott, Sundberg, & Gramming (1995) attempted to determine if vocal warm-ups prior to singing yielded the same effect as warming up other parts of the body, i.e., increasing blood flow to muscles thereby decreasing their thickness and increasing their pliability. Although the results of this study were inconclusive as to the exact effect of vocal warm-ups, several reasons still support the use of vocal warm-ups. Elliott, Sundberg, & Gramming emphasized that changing pitch undoubtedly stretches the muscles. They also noted that many singers subjectively indicated improved vocal functioning following warm-ups.

Warm-ups should not be confused with vocalises. Warm-ups, as in weight training, are used to stretch the muscles to prepare them for work without injury. Vocalises are tasks aimed at acquiring a particular skill, i.e., the actual exercise itself. For example, some schools of thought encourage simple, quiet glides across the range as an effective warm-up. On the other hand, using a staccato (short) "ha-ha-ha" on 1-3-5 of a scale is to encourage onset and flexibility.

Many singers will use a variety of vowels, consonants, or arpeggios to "warm" the voice; however, these techniques may actually be encouraging articulatory precision or vowel balancing as in rapid "me-may-mah-mo-mu," or balancing "registers" as in sung single vowels on 1-5-6-5-1, etc.

Here is a video example made by Eric Arcenaux:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bianca Ryan

Wow. Such a big voice for an 11 year old girl. Little Bianca Ryan. I just hope that she won't damage her cords. It's unquestionable that she can sing and her voice is huge. The only issue is, she doesn't sound real the whole time. She sounds like she is trying to sing like Jennifer H. or faking a more mature sound. When she gets older, hopefully she will be comfortable just sounding like herself.