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Re-visiting Formants

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ronws
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A question for Steven. Here is the link to your article comparing singers from different styles and genres.

http://www.themodernvocalist.com/profiles/blogs/comparing-female-belt-rock

About halfway down is a comparison between Robert Plant on "Whole Lotta Love" and Whitney Houston on "I Will Always Love You."

Plant in blue, Whitney in white.

Seeing where their harmonics were was neat and Plant had the stronger peaks because of using his singer's formant. Whitney's however, were a little more numerous giving her more ring at about the same place in the range of singing.

But what I noticed leads me to the question. The waveform of Whitney is larger or taller than that of Plant. Is that an artifact of the analyzer program comparing one sample to another? I am thinking that wasn't the case. That Plant is producing a smaller amplitude, possible because of his use of the pharyngeal adjustments. That Whitney is truly belting, open throat, just blasting away with this monstrous amplitude. And Plant is a little more focused, not as acoustically loud, which is is compensated for by possibly more amplification than Whitney would need.

Or have I totally got it wrong?

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A question for Steven. Here is the link to your article comparing singers from different styles and genres.

http://www.themodernvocalist.com/profiles/blogs/comparing-female-belt-rock

About halfway down is a comparison between Robert Plant on "Whole Lotta Love" and Whitney Houston on "I Will Always Love You."

Plant in blue, Whitney in white.

Seeing where their harmonics were was neat and Plant had the stronger peaks because of using his singer's formant. Whitney's however, were a little more numerous giving her more ring at about the same place in the range of singing.

But what I noticed leads me to the question. The waveform of Whitney is larger or taller than that of Plant. Is that an artifact of the analyzer program comparing one sample to another? I am thinking that wasn't the case. That Plant is producing a smaller amplitude, possible because of his use of the pharyngeal adjustments. That Whitney is truly belting, open throat, just blasting away with this monstrous amplitude. And Plant is a little more focused, not as acoustically loud, which is is compensated for by possibly more amplification than Whitney would need.

Or have I totally got it wrong?

Ronws: Sorry, I did not make this explicitly clear throughout the article. In the paragraph immediately above the Houston/Plant Spectrogram, you will see the text ' I have matched the fundamentals as before.' This is a reference to the paragraph earlier in the article, which (in reference to the LaBelle/Gedda spectrogram) says that I have matched the amplitude of the fundamentals (H1) so that the relative intensity of the remainder of the harmonics can be compared. That was the best I could do, considering the various sources. Rachsing's point is well-taken. There could be some artifacts from the mic, the distance, and the engineering settings of the recordings.

As to the relative intensity of the signals, Plant's harmonics (except for the fundamental, which I have deliberately matched) are stronger (taller) or as strong (equal-height) as Whitney's, not weaker. They have the same number of harmonics charted as well. They both show a boost in the singer's formant region, but Whitney's overall harmonic amplitude in that region is lower.

Both singers get most of their vocal power from the 2nd harmonic, and Plant has extra amplitude in the singer's formant region.

One thing that is drastically different is the two recordings is the amount of 'other sound' in them. Plant's song has much more other sound (as evidenced by the blue trace between the harmonics) in the display. In Whitney's case, the vocal note is very exposed, almost unaccompanied by comparison.

I hope this is helpful.

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So, I was off. Cool. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I had read that article some time ago and was reading it again and just noticed what I had mentioned. And I see what Rach means, too. They would need to sing with the same mic, same distance, to truly compare voices. Makes sense and I didn't think of that when I was looking at it.

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I am not a recording expert, as if anyone has not figured that out by now. But I have read that especially in the age of recording to digital, some kind of compression is used. Either inline in the input or editing on the track because (a stat I read, not one I made up) approximately 50 percent of an analog signal is lost going into digital.

Anyway, sorry for saying "waveform," I didn't realize that would be a sticking point. I was looking at the peaks and the line was continuous, and it dealt with sound waves.

All of which are moot points, as I already admitted that I was wrong in how I was viewing the pic that was presented. And wrong in my understanding of what was happening. I probably should have just kept my mouth shut.

:D

(fat chance, like that's ever going to happen ....)

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Its true about the compression ronws, but this thing of loosing signal is not true. Most audio interfaces out there will give you a THD of less than 0,1% on the audio frequency range.

Compression is needed for many reasons, one of them is because of close miking. You are not recording the audio of the room, letting the decay and reverb resolve the sound, so its like capturing the vocals as if the person was 2 cm away from your ears, its too unnatural.

Another reason is that most material nowdays use a lot of compression on all instruments. If you have distorted guitars to fight with the lead vocals on the mid-range it gets worse. So you have to compress, or else it is not heard.

Its also part of what is expected to be heard on a recording.

And last, but not least. Everything that sounds louder, is perceived as better. So it became a practice to squeeze it until it becomes a wall of white noise. Hopefully one day people will learn how to use the volume knob and this will end... Until then, vocals will be very compressed together with the rest of the song.

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