This thesis addresses aspects of voice characteristics in operatic and musical theatre singing. The common aim of the studies was to identify respiratory, phonatory and resonatory characteristics accounting for salient voice timbre differences between singing styles.
The velopharyngeal opening (VPO) was analyzed in professional operatic singers, using nasofiberscopy. Differing shapes of VPOs suggested that singers may use a VPO to fine-tune the vocal tract resonance characteristics and hence voice timbre. A listening test revealed no correlation between rated nasal quality and the presence of a VPO.
The voice quality referred to as “throaty”, a term sometimes used for characterizing speech and “non-classical” vocalists, was examined with respect to subglottal pressure (Psub) and formant frequencies. Vocal tract shapes were determined by magnetic resonance imaging. The throaty versions of four vowels showed a typical narrowing of the pharynx. Throatiness was characterized by increased first formant frequency and lowering of higher formants. Also, voice source parameter analyses suggested a hyper-functional voice production.
Female musical theatre singers typically use two vocal registers (chest and head). Voice source parameters, including closed-quotient, peak-to-peak pulse amplitude, maximum flow declination rate, and normalized amplitude quotient (NAQ), were analyzed at ten equally spaced subglottal pressures representing a wide range of vocal loudness. Chest register showed higher values in all glottal parameters except for NAQ. Operatic baritone singer voices were analyzed in order to explore the informative power of the amplitude quotient (AQ), and its normalized version NAQ, suggested to reflect glottal adduction. Differences in NAQ were found between fundamental frequency values while AQ was basically unaffected.
Voice timbre differs between musical theatre and operatic singers. Measurements of voice source parameters as functions of subglottal pressure, covering a wide range of vocal loudness, showed that both groups varied Psub systematically. The musical theatre singers used somewhat higher pressures, produced higher sound pressure levels, and did not show the opera singers’ characteristic clustering of higher formants.
Musical theatre and operatic singers show highly controlled and consistent behaviors, characteristic for each style. A common feature is the precise control of subglottal pressure, while laryngeal and vocal tract conditions differ between singing styles. In addition, opera singers tend to sing with a stronger voice source fundamental than musical theatre singers.