Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Does Real-Time Visual Feedback Enhance Perceived Aspects of Choral Performance?

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Does Real-Time Visual Feedback Enhance Perceived Aspects of Choral Performance?

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

SPECTROGRAPHY HAS BEEN USED in singing research and instruction for many years. Appleman, Coffin, and Vennard introduced voice teachers to this technology through their books, which were published in the 1960s and 1970s.1 In the early 1980s, the first singing voice laboratories within music departments began to appear, initially at Oberlin Conservatory under Richard Miller's direction, and soon afterward at Westminster Choir College, thanks to the impetus of Marvin Keenze.2 These labs and the ones that followed them introduced a new generation of teachers to the uses of the spectrum and the spectrogram in training singers.

A number of aspects of voice production can readily be seen in a spectrum or a spectrogram. These include: breathiness (the effects of which can be seen in both the spectrum and the spectrogram); changes in resonance strategies (visible in both analysis modes); coarticulation habits with consonants and vowels (revealed only in the spectrogram); diphthongs (also only seen on the spectrogram); habits associated with the onset or offset of sound (in the spectrogram); the presence or absence of the singer's formant (visible in both types of analysis displays); and the rate, extent, and consistency of the singer's vibrato (seen only in the spectrogram).

Desktop computer software that enables real-time acoustic analysis displays like the spectrum and the spectrogram to be generated have been available for visual feedback in one-on-one singing teaching for more than a decade. A number of these programs have been rigorously explored during their developmental stages. During the early 1980s, Welch, Howard, and Rush explored using visual feedback in the development of pitching accuracy in the singing of primary school-aged children.3 The program created was also used for assessment as well as for visual feedback for pitching development.4 Later, Howard and Angus used a further refinement of the same software in comparing pitching in primary school-aged boys and girls as compared with adults.5 Rossiter, Howard, and DeCosta then examined real-time visual feedback's effect on other aspects of singing training besides pitching, using a display of the EGG closed quotient and a display of the ratio of the amplitude of the singer's formant region to the amplitude of the full spectrum with previously untrained subjects.6 Callaway investigated the usefulness of the spectrograph in individual vocal lessons with female students in the American collegiate voice studio, although the amount of real-time feedback was limited.7 Howard, Brereton, Welch, Himonides, DeCosta, Williams, and Howard studied the use of a software system in two different singing studios that provided teachers and singers with up to eight different feedback displays, including fundamental frequency contour, spectrum, narrow band spectrogram, spectral ratio, and vocal tract area function.8 Interested readers may find a more thorough review of these and other investigations of singing and real-time feedback in an article by Hoppe, Sadakata, and Desain.9 Others who have developed software or advocated for the use of real-time visual feedback in enhancing singing training include Donald Miller, Harm Schutte, and colleagues in Groningen, as well as Garyth Nair.10 Most important in light of this paper, the popular commercially available PC-based program VoceVista(TM) was introduced to Journal of Singing readers in the late 1990s by Donald Miller and James Doing.11

The spectrum and spectrograph are now widely accepted as training tools. The 2010 NATS National Conference in Salt Lake City served as a great example of this fact: one of the preconference workshops was "A Studio with a View: Employing Visualization Software in Your Daily Teaching," presented by NCVS scientist Brian Monson. Two other conference sessions centered on using technology, and four of the twenty-four poster papers were on the use of technology in research or teaching. …

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