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Concept: Phonation


Voice, as a secondary sexual characteristic, is known to affect the perceived attractiveness of human individuals. But the underlying mechanism of vocal attractiveness has remained unclear. Here, we presented human listeners with acoustically altered natural sentences and fully synthetic sentences with systematically manipulated pitch, formants and voice quality based on a principle of body size projection reported for animal calls and emotional human vocal expressions. The results show that male listeners preferred a female voice that signals a small body size, with relatively high pitch, wide formant dispersion and breathy voice, while female listeners preferred a male voice that signals a large body size with low pitch and narrow formant dispersion. Interestingly, however, male vocal attractiveness was also enhanced by breathiness, which presumably softened the aggressiveness associated with a large body size. These results, together with the additional finding that the same vocal dimensions also affect emotion judgment, indicate that humans still employ a vocal interaction strategy used in animal calls despite the development of complex language.

Concepts: Human, Human voice, Phonation, Singing, Vocal range


Vocal folds are used as sound sources in various species, but it is unknown how vocal fold morphologies are optimized for different acoustic objectives. Here we identify two main variables affecting range of vocal fold vibration frequency, namely vocal fold elongation and tissue fiber stress. A simple vibrating string model is used to predict fundamental frequency ranges across species of different vocal fold sizes. While average fundamental frequency is predominantly determined by vocal fold length (larynx size), range of fundamental frequency is facilitated by (1) laryngeal muscles that control elongation and by (2) nonlinearity in tissue fiber tension. One adaptation that would increase fundamental frequency range is greater freedom in joint rotation or gliding of two cartilages (thyroid and cricoid), so that vocal fold length change is maximized. Alternatively, tissue layers can develop to bear a disproportionate fiber tension (i.e., a ligament with high density collagen fibers), increasing the fundamental frequency range and thereby vocal versatility. The range of fundamental frequency across species is thus not simply one-dimensional, but can be conceptualized as the dependent variable in a multi-dimensional morphospace. In humans, this could allow for variations that could be clinically important for voice therapy and vocal fold repair. Alternative solutions could also have importance in vocal training for singing and other highly-skilled vocalizations.

Concepts: Acoustics, Human voice, Larynx, Phonation, Vocal folds, Phonetics, Fundamental frequency, Histology of the Vocal Folds


Freddie Mercury was one of the twentieth century’s best-known singers of commercial contemporary music. This study presents an acoustical analysis of his voice production and singing style, based on perceptual and quantitative analysis of publicly available sound recordings. Analysis of six interviews revealed a median speaking fundamental frequency of 117.3 Hz, which is typically found for a baritone voice. Analysis of voice tracks isolated from full band recordings suggested that the singing voice range was 37 semitones within the pitch range of F#2 (about 92.2 Hz) to G5 (about 784 Hz). Evidence for higher phonations up to a fundamental frequency of 1,347 Hz was not deemed reliable. Analysis of 240 sustained notes from 21 a-cappella recordings revealed a surprisingly high mean fundamental frequency modulation rate (vibrato) of 7.0 Hz, reaching the range of vocal tremor. Quantitative analysis utilizing a newly introduced parameter to assess the regularity of vocal vibrato corroborated its perceptually irregular nature, suggesting that vibrato (ir)regularity is a distinctive feature of the singing voice. Imitation of subharmonic phonation samples by a professional rock singer, documented by endoscopic high-speed video at 4,132 frames per second, revealed a 3:1 frequency locked vibratory pattern of vocal folds and ventricular folds.

Concepts: Acoustics, Human voice, Phonation, Vocal folds, Singing, Vocal range, Voice type, A cappella


Vocal fry is speech that is low pitched and creaky sounding, and is increasingly common among young American females. Some argue that vocal fry enhances speaker labor market perceptions while others argue that vocal fry is perceived negatively and can damage job prospects. In a large national sample of American adults we find that vocal fry is interpreted negatively. Relative to a normal speaking voice, young adult female voices exhibiting vocal fry are perceived as less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive, and less hirable. The negative perceptions of vocal fry are stronger for female voices relative to male voices. These results suggest that young American females should avoid using vocal fry speech in order to maximize labor market opportunities.

Concepts: Human, Male, Female, Gender, Sex, Human voice, Phonation, Woman


OBJECTIVE: Elite professional voice users experience a high vocal load and if voice quality deteriorates, their livelihoods are affected. Our aim was to assess how an elite professional voice user group, musical theater students (n=49), perceive their voices in comparison with medical students (n=43). STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. METHODS: Participants completed a confidential questionnaire including demographics and the Voice Handicap Index-10 (VHI-10) in September 2010. RESULTS: Response rate was 100% (92/92). The mean age of the medical students was 25 years and of musical theater students was 20 years. The mean overall VHI-10 score was higher in musical theater students compared with that of medical students (mean score, 5.56 and standard deviation [SD], 4.13 vs mean score, 3.79 and SD, 3.02, P=0.02), particularly in three VHI-10 items: voice strain, lack of clarity, and being upset from voice problem (mean score, 0.82 and SD, 0.86 vs mean score, 0.44 and SD, 0.67, P=0.02; mean score, 0.92 and SD, 0.89 vs mean score, 0.53 and SD, 0.70, P=0.02; and mean score, 0.49 and SD, 0.79 vs mean score, 0.07 and SD, 0.26, P=0.001, respectively). Furthermore, musical theater students report higher possible voice problems in the past (6/43 [14%], 21/49 [43%], P=0.002). CONCLUSIONS: In this small group, musical theater students report more handicap compared with medical students. It is possible that this difference may be because of the musical theater students experiencing greater voice use over time or better recognition of potential voice problems. This may mean that we need to do more to protect student’s voices by optimizing vocal care during their training, without neglecting the vocal needs of other students.

Concepts: Arithmetic mean, Human voice, Phonation, Standard deviation, Opera, Musical theatre, Vocal range


This study examined stops produced by 7 year-old Korean-English bilingual (KEB) children and age-equivalent Korean children who had learned English as a second language (L2) in order to investigate how duration of exposure affects the PHONETIC systems of their two languages. A total of 60 children participated (15 per group; monolingual English, monolingual Korean, KEB and L2 children). Word-initial VOT and f0 values in the following vowel were measured in both languages. Comparison of English and Korean stops produced by monolingual children showed that the two English (voiced and voiceless) and three Korean (fortis, lenis, & aspirated) stop types were fully distinguished. Like the monolinguals, KEB children produced English and Korean stops distinctively, indicating that they possess two separate stop systems. But while L2-learning children distinguished English voiced from Korean fortis, and English voiceless from Korean lenis, they produced English voiceless and Korean aspirated stops similarly. Compared to adult Korean L2 learners who did not distinguish English voiced from Korean fortis (Kang and Guion, 2006), the results here suggest that young L2 children express more sophisticated phonetic categories than do adult L2 learners. [Funded by NICHD (RHD061527A).].

Concepts: Phonology, Linguistics, Phonation, International Phonetic Alphabet, Aspiration, Voice onset time, Tenseness, Fortis and lenis


Children with nonorganic voice disorders (NVDs) are treated mainly using direct voice therapy techniques such as the accent method or glottal attack changes and indirect methods such as vocal hygiene and voice education. However, both approaches tackle only the symptoms and not etiological factors in the family dynamics and therefore often enjoy little success. The aim of the “Bernese Brief Dynamic Intervention” (BBDI) for children with NVD was to extend the effectiveness of pediatric voice therapies with a psychosomatic concept combining short-term play therapy with the child and family dynamic counseling of the parents. This study compares the therapeutic changes in three groups where different procedures were used, before intervention and 1 year afterward: counseling of parents (one to two consultations; n = 24), Brief Dynamic Intervention on the lines of the BBDI (three to five play therapy sessions with the child plus two to four sessions with the parents; n = 20), and traditional voice therapy (n = 22). A Voice Questionnaire for Parents developed by us with 59 questions to be answered on a four-point Likert scale was used to measure the change. According to the parents' assessment, a significant improvement in voice quality was achieved in all three methods. Counseling of parents (A) appears to have led parents to give their child more latitude, for example, they stopped nagging the child or demanding that he/she should behave strictly by the rules. After BBDI (B), the mothers were more responsive to their children’s wishes and the children were more relaxed and their speech became livelier. At home, they called out to them less often at a distance, which probably improved parent-child dialog. Traditional voice therapy © seems to have had a positive effect on the children’s social competence. BBDI seems to have the deepest, widest, and therefore probably the most enduring therapeutic effect on children with NVD.

Concepts: Medicine, Therapy, Classification of Pharmaco-Therapeutic Referrals, Child, Human voice, Phonation, Mother, The Child


In electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings, there is a characteristic P1-N1-P2 complex after the onset of a sound, and a related complex, called the Acoustic Change Complex (ACC), when there is a change within a sound (e.g., a formant transition between two vowels). In the present study, the ACC was measured for all possible pairs of eight sustained voiced and voiceless English fricatives, in EEG recordings from native speakers of British English. The magnitude of the ACC was used as a similarity measure for multidimensional scaling (MDS), producing a two-dimensional perceptual space that related to both voicing and place of articulation. The results thus demonstrate that this combination of ACC and MDS can be effective for mapping multidimensional phonetic spaces at relatively early levels of auditory processing, which may be useful for evaluating the effects of language experience in adults and infants.

Concepts: Vector space, Space, Acoustics, Phonation, Phonetics, Real number, English language, Vowel


Fado is a Portuguese musical genre, instrumentally accompanied by a Portuguese and an acoustic guitar. Fado singers' voice is perceptually characterized by a low pitch, hoarse, and strained voice. The present research study sketches the acoustic and phonatory profile of the Fado singers' voice. Fifteen Fado singers produced spoken and sung phonatory tasks. For the spoken voice measures, the maximum phonation time and s/z ratio of Fado singers were near the inefficient physiological threshold. Fundamental frequency was higher than that found in nonsingers and lower than that found in Western Classical singers. Jitter and shimmer mean values were higher compared with nonsingers. Harmonic-to-noise ratio (HNR) was similar to the mean values for nonsingers. For the sung voice, jitter was higher compared with Country, Musical Theater, Soul, Jazz, and Western Classical singers and lower than Pop singers. Shimmer mean values were lower than Country, Musical Theater, Pop, Soul, and Jazz singers and higher than Western Classical singers. HNR was similar for Western Classical singers. Maximum phonational frequency range of Fado singers indicated that male and female subjects had a lower range compared with Western Classical singers. Additionally, Fado singers produced vibrato, but singer’s formant was rarely produced. These sung voice characteristics could be related with life habits, less/lack of singing training, or could be just a Fado voice characteristic.

Concepts: Human voice, Phonation, Singing, Opera, Vocal range, Electric guitar, Chest voice, Whistle register


BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to determine the test-retest variability of the Acoustic Voice Quality Index (AVQI) and to investigate the weighting of the test’s two components (sustained vowel and continuous speech) with regards to the final AVQI score. PATIENTS AND METHODS: During this study, 43 test subjects with varying degrees of hoarseness were each assessed twice using the AVQI. RESULTS: No statistically significant differences were found between the end results of the two AVQI repetitions (t = 1.205; p = 0.235). The test-retest procedure outcome value of 0.54 confirms a low level of AVQI score variability. The end result of the AVQI assessment is most strongly influenced by sustained phonation of the vowel /a/ (r(2) = 0.88.). Although sustained phonation has a significantly greater influence on AVQI score than continuous speech (z = - 3.34; p < 0.01), the latter component also makes a substantial contribution to the final result (r(2) = 0.55). CONCLUSIONS: The results confirm a low level of test-retest variability within the AVQI. Combining the two speech elements showed a greater contribution of sustained vowel phonation to the final AVQI score.

Concepts: Statistical significance, Acoustics, Human voice, Phonation, Glottis