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Just a little observation/babies wailing

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Matt
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I think we've all heard the parallel to babies crying and that they do it so naturally, and that as we grow older we pick up and add bad habits. Last night the neighbours baby started screaming at about 2 a.m. I lay awake listening (I didnt have much choice) and I noticed the baby often went into falsetto. Dont know what to conclude from that but I found it a little surprising.

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I think we've all heard the parallel to babies crying and that they do it so naturally, and that as we grow older we pick up and add bad habits. Last night the neighbours baby started screaming at about 2 a.m. I lay awake listening (I didnt have much choice) and I noticed the baby often went into falsetto. Dont know what to conclude from that but I found it a little surprising.

Matt: crying babies 'push chest', and the very short vocal tract reduces the load on the vocal bands when they reach the place where the first harmonic matches the first formant... just like it does at the top of the male chest voice. Its the spot where they get the most ruckus for the smallest amount of energy.

Little ones also overadduct when they cry, creating a very noisy 'pressed' phonation with a very short open phase, lots of noise in the sound, and high subglottic pressure. Vocal fry on steroids. Spectragraphically analyzed, this puts lots of non-harmonic energy in the band from 2500 to 3500 Hz... the hot spot in the hearing of humans.

If a baby tries to cry at a fundamental which is above a resonant sweet spot, or is tiring, I think a crack to falsetto is quite reasonable. The interference from subglottic sound on vocal fold motion, which is involved in cracking, plays a part too.

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How do you manage to know stuff like that steven...you are indeed the professor :P

Matt: Baby voices obey the same rules as all the others. I had two kids, and personally experienced what they sound and look like during the action, including the strong abdominal contraction, red-face (from subglottal pressure), the embouchure and laryngeal positions.

To understand the frequency components, I put some cry recordings through spectrographic analysis before I wrote my note. I saw the spectra that went with the sounds described... :-) Until I looked, I did not know that the first-formant tuning aligned with the first harmonic, but the graphs showed me the strong alignment, and also the 2.5-3.5K Hz data.

Those things make crying a very effective, highly audible way of communicating displeasure. It certainly got my attention as a young parent 26 years ago.

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