The Perception of Formant Tuning in Soprano Voices

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


0.1. Introduction
At the upper end of the soprano singing range, it is known that singers alter the shape of their vocal tracts in order to bring
one or more of the vocal tract resonances nearer to a harmonic of the voice source; a process known as resonance tuning, which
increases the amplitude of the sound produced with little eort from the singer. This study investigated the perception of first and
second resonance tuning; key strategies observed in classically trained soprano voices. It was expected that the most commonlyused
strategies observed in singers would be preferred by the listeners, and since previous investigations have often focussed only
on a single vowel sound (usually /A/), this test will also allow for comparison of dierent tuning strategies between vowels.
0.2. Method
Synthetic vowel sounds were generated using an L-F glottal flow model, passed through a series of filters to represent the vocal
tract resonances. Listeners then compared the sounds, which included 3 vowels, at 4 fundamental frequencies ( f0), to which 4
dierent tuning strategies were applied; (A) the expected formant values in speech, (B) the first formant tuned to the fundamental,
(C) the second formant tuned to the second harmonic, and (D) both first and second formants tuned to the first and second harmonics
respectively. Participants were asked three sets of questions: comparing how much they preferred dierent tuning strategies, how
natural they found dierent tuning strategies, and identifying the vowel of each sound.
0.3. Results
The results obtained varied greatly between vowels; the results for the /A/ vowel were similar for preference and naturalness,
but no clear pattern was seen for vowel identification. The results for the /u/ vowel did not appear to show a clear dierence between
the dierent tuning strategies for preference, and only a little separation for naturalness. The vowel identification was generally
very poor for this vowel. The results for the /i/ vowel were striking, with strategies including R2 tuning both preferred and perceived
as more natural than those without for both preference and naturalness, however for the vowel identification, strategies without R2
tuning were most often correctly identified.
0.4. Conclusion
The results indicate that the perception of dierent tuning strategies alters depending on the vowel and the perceptual quality
investigated (preference, naturalness, or vowel identification), and whether the first and second harmonic fall above or below the
first or second formants. For some vowels and perceptual qualities, formant tuning was found to be beneficial at lower f0 values
than expected based on current expectations of formant tuning in practice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Voice
Early online date26 May 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 May 2017

Bibliographical note

Crown Copyright © 2017 Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of The Voice Foundation. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.


  • Singing
  • Soprano
  • Formant tuning
  • Perception

Cite this