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Alexander Kariotis Podcast & Vowel Modification

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On 13/12/2017 at 3:49 AM, Steven Fraser said:

As the scale is sung in an upward direction, the harmonics become farther apart, and fewer of them align well with the vowel resonances.  While this changes which harmonics are amplified by the resonances, the perception of the vowel does not change... we still hear 'ah', for the most part, if the posture of the vocal tract remains stable.

Hi Steven, how are you?

About this particular point isn't it the exact opposite? Since the amount of harmonics is reduced (or rather, spread over a larger bandwidth), information is lost, and vowels start to sound more or less all the same, like what happens with the soprano high range. So if the posture of the vocal tract remains stable the vowel ends up sounding different as the pitch ascends, eventually losing information of the first formant completely.

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On 12/27/2017 at 6:48 AM, Felipe Carvalho said:

Hi Steven, how are you?

About this particular point isn't it the exact opposite? Since the amount of harmonics is reduced (or rather, spread over a larger bandwidth), information is lost, and vowels start to sound more or less all the same, like what happens with the soprano high range. So if the posture of the vocal tract remains stable the vowel ends up sounding different as the pitch ascends, eventually losing information of the first formant completely.

if you dont "do" anything, as the pitch ascends the vowel will start to "passively modify", to use Kenneth Bozemans terminology.  (from the video I know u watched lol)

I was going to categorically state that the vowel will move to the right on the IPA vowel chart such as "æ" (act) going towards "ɑ" (father). I think it will for sure IF you are trying to stay in a loud belt type formation. If you dont open to mouth more to "chase the vowel" then the vowel will probably start to "turn over"

I think the picture might be slightly different if you have a good range and you dont mind the quality of the note changing. You can take that "æ" and go pretty high with it IF you let it thin out and go on up into high headvoice etc (without opening the mouth more etc)

So as u and I have discussed before, if its in rock singing, who really cares as long as it sounds good lol. In theater or opera though they will have some specific voice quality in mind.

So i am interested to hear the exact context Steven was meaning

 

Peace, JJ

 

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1 hour ago, JonJon said:

if you dont "do" anything, as the pitch ascends the vowel will start to "passively modify", to use Kenneth Bozemans terminology.  (from the video I know u watched lol)

I was going to categorically state that the vowel will move to the right on the IPA vowel chart such as "æ" (act) going towards "ɑ" (father). I think it will for sure IF you are trying to stay in a loud belt type formation. If you dont open to mouth more to "chase the vowel" then the vowel will probably start to "turn over"

I think the picture might be slightly different if you have a good range and you dont mind the quality of the note changing. You can take that "æ" and go pretty high with it IF you let it thin out and go on up into high headvoice etc (without opening the mouth more etc)

So as u and I have discussed before, if its in rock singing, who really cares as long as it sounds good lol. In theater or opera though they will have some specific voice quality in mind.

So i am interested to hear the exact context Steven was meaning

 

Peace, JJ

Yo.

That's the thing, the vowel does not really move (resonance stays still), you just begin to lose the reference of its first formant. Look at this:

Notice the comparision between vowels on low and high pitch.

This "blurrying effect" happens mostly on the up and down direction, thinking of the IPA chart btw.

And its exactly because the information is lost, and not replaced, that we still can use the other articulations to have clarity.

 

The main point though is that you need to hear and to control the resonance in a very non-intuitive way. Articulating AH like this may feel good, may be super easy after you get a hang of it, but "passive" implies just doing nothing and letting it happen. A life time of using your voice in a very different manner and not paying attention to this kind of thing will require you to be very active before it can be passive ;)

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Felipe, JonJon:

You both make excellent points.  On an acoustic level, as the fundamental rises the harmonics are less and less likely to align with the 1st and 2nd resonances, which are used by the listener's ear to discriminate the vowel.  (I don't use 'Formants' here, because that is the term for the resonance peak that is _lacking_ in our situation).  Yes, information, in the form of harmonic amplitude and Formants, is lost during the upward scale.  However, in good singing, the 'perception' of the vowel in the mind of the listener is what I was going for.  I did not expand on it then, but I will now.

In my comment earlier this month, I was noting that the listener hears 'AH anyway as this occurs, even if the tonal envelope has no Formants in it that resemble AH.  The spacing of the harmonics has precluded the stimulation of the lower 2 resonances, conspicuous by their lack in the spectrum.  Fortunately, the listener's musical ear readily accepts, and even prefers the modified vowel, as it is not possible to sing the 'actual' AH in that range, for the reasons you both have mentioned.

Smart composers and adroit performers write and do syllabification (text on top of notes) gracefully in this range, so that the notes performed there do not have to carry critical textual content that would require minute discrimination of a particular vowel to understand the intent.  In classical music, the syllables (if any) that will be used by the singer in the high range have already been heard in a range where the word has been discriminated, in prior verses.  Once the listener's ear has experienced that,  the singer is free to sing 'whatever is their best vowel' for the note, and the imagination of the listener will insert the syllable mentally.

The alternative to this, that is,  insisting that the same vocal tract adjustment for a given vowel in a low range would be used in a high... is a recipe for reduced tone quality.

In Coffin's piano vowel-chart, he indicates the gradual transition from the lower and mid-voice, where harmonic alignment with resonances can  be good, to the range (he calls 'organ pipe') where the singer just gets out of the way, and sings what sounds the best.

Regards for the New Year,

Steven Fraser

 

 

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37 minutes ago, Steven Fraser said:

Felipe, JonJon:

You both make excellent points.  On an acoustic level, as the fundamental rises the harmonics are less and less likely to align with the 1st and 2nd resonances, which are used by the listener's ear to discriminate the vowel.  (I don't use 'Formants' here, because that is the term for the resonance peak that is _lacking_ in our situation).  Yes, information, in the form of harmonic amplitude and Formants, is lost during the upward scale.  However, in good singing, the 'perception' of the vowel in the mind of the listener is what I was going for.  I did not expand on it then, but I will now.

In my comment earlier this month, I was noting that the listener hears 'AH anyway as this occurs, even if the tonal envelope has no Formants in it that resemble AH.  The spacing of the harmonics has precluded the stimulation of the lower 2 resonances, conspicuous by their lack in the spectrum.  Fortunately, the listener's musical ear readily accepts, and even prefers the modified vowel, as it is not possible to sing the 'actual' AH in that range, for the reasons you both have mentioned.

Smart composers and adroit performers write and do syllabification (text on top of notes) gracefully in this range, so that the notes performed there do not have to carry critical textual content that would require minute discrimination of a particular vowel to understand the intent.  In classical music, the syllables (if any) that will be used by the singer in the high range have already been heard in a range where the word has been discriminated, in prior verses.  Once the listener's ear has experienced that,  the singer is free to sing 'whatever is their best vowel' for the note, and the imagination of the listener will insert the syllable mentally.

The alternative to this, that is,  insisting that the same vocal tract adjustment for a given vowel in a low range would be used in a high... is a recipe for reduced tone quality.

In Coffin's piano vowel-chart, he indicates the gradual transition from the lower and mid-voice, where harmonic alignment with resonances can  be good, to the range (he calls 'organ pipe') where the singer just gets out of the way, and sings what sounds the best.

Regards for the New Year,

Steven Fraser

 

 

 

I think the whole subject is very worthy of study.

The thing I sort of get from it is that there is some "leeway" on general vocal tuning..especially in the lower ranges (before the harmonics spread out more.)

Even the average pro singer has no idea what a formant or harmonic is. Read the interviews by them. Most have about zero technical knowledge. Yet they are able to sing. One reason IMO is that there is quite a bit of leeway as far as tuning, at least in lower ranges. Singers find a comfortable spot to sing from and in general they can sing whatever they need to sing from that one configuration.

Point being, as Steven points out, the audience is going to fill in the blanks anyway (we wont get into misheard lyrics lol). Singers sing EVERY possible variation of vowels and it goes over just fine

So for me personally, I think it is utterly foolish to try to look at EVERY word in a song and dream that you are going to perfectly tune this or that to it. Thats foolishness IMO. Like I said, it seems most of the great singers have their "pet" vocal setups, whether they realize it or not, and they sing from that setup. Some experiment more and thus have more flexibility. Some experimented less and thus were more limited

Myself, I am trying to find ways to be LESS technical at this point because so far I have been very mechanical. I think it was a good way to learn, manipulate this and that, learn to make many different sounds, grow my range etc. But as far as just plain singing, there is a lot to be said for 'just singing' which to me means generally keeping an open throat, more or less based on a neutral vowel, maybe an \ ə \ .  

From that neutral position you arent going to be too too far from finding a workable tuning for most words.

 

thoughts?

 

Peace, JJ

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JJ: Several thoughts on this.   What you suggest, working outward from a neutral position of  \ ə \ , is very reasonable, especially when working with a student with unnecessary tension.

I try to keep in mind that the audience, once they have heard a singers /i/, /a/ and /u/, automatically calibrates to the singer's voice, and from then on in a performance, has little issue understanding them, even if they are singing different text from others who are singing at the same time.   This calibration happens in our hearing for speaking voices, too, which is what allows us to understand strong accents speaking English.

As to the utility of 'thinking about the technique of every note', I agree with you... its not desirable.  The state of mind of the singer (what they are thinking about) comes out of the voice automatically.  Time spent in thoughts which detract from the expression of the meaning of the text and the underlying emotional content reduce the effectiveness of the song.  For this reason, the 'so-so' singer, whose thoughts are completely devoted to the content of the song, can give and have a more effective performance than the 'perfect' vocal  technician who is thinking real-time about the myriad aspects of the performance.

All that said,  in unamplified singing, especially for the stage, there are additional benefits for singing the most resonant vowels as often as is possible: Audibility and Vocal survival.

Regards,

Steven Fraser

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Hi guys that's a great discussion and thanks for sharing info here, it's very generous of you! :)

As Berton Coffin's book was mentioned here, does anyone know a bookstore offering it on it's normal price as it seems I can only find it for over 160USD everywhere I look. I am happy to pay that price but would be happy to find it cheaper from somewhere.

Thanks again for your contribution in the forum and have a Happy New Year!

Vasil

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On 12/31/2017 at 6:53 AM, vasilchristov said:

Hi guys that's a great discussion and thanks for sharing info here, it's very generous of you! :)

As Berton Coffin's book was mentioned here, does anyone know a bookstore offering it on it's normal price as it seems I can only find it for over 160USD everywhere I look. I am happy to pay that price but would be happy to find it cheaper from somewhere.

Thanks again for your contribution in the forum and have a Happy New Year!

Vasil

Hi, Vasil.

The book is published by Scarecrow press, though right now they are out-of-stock.

You can track availability at

http://www.scarecrowpress.com/ISBN/9780810813700/Coffin's-Overtones-of-Bel-Canto-Phonetic-Basis-of-Artistic-Singing-with-100-Chromatic-Vowel-Chart-Exercises

The list price is $US 85.

Scarecrow also publishes Barbara Doscher's 'The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice'.  Doscher studied with Coffin at Colorado, and then continued his pedagogy there on the faculty.

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This was great. Kariotis sounded rock solid and informative. The podcast format of singers talking about singing seems like a niche not really covered.

I haven't been around much on these forums but the way I've been thinking and training has been very vowel centric. Basically, the vowel does what the vowel does. I don't think of it like modifying from a standard vowel towards a modded vowel. It's more so to use the vowel that gets the sound/register you want at any given frequency.

I can kind of see if you have a talk singing kind of style, a little mod might help with a problem area where one of your speech vowels isn't functioning at a given frequency, but the more I sing, it seems I naturally move towards the vowels that work better for the frequency/intensity/sound I'm trying to create.

For people with more interesting native accents or speech patterns the path of least resistance towards a vowel could make them boring and less unique, but I haven't found any of my vowel voicing was unique or interesting enough that I needed to maintain my 'standard vowel' and modify away from it consciously. It's more using the one that works and hopefully sounds like you want it to.

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