Balanced Resonance – Part 3

Weekly Teaching Tip – June 5, 2018
by Tricia Grey

Resonance is more precisely formant/harmonic activity. A formant is an acoustic resonance of the vocal tract, measured as an amplitude peak in frequency when a singer sings into a spectrogram. Harmonics are partials, higher frequencies that are produced with any musical sound along with the fundamental frequency or pitch, that give the sound its timbre or tone color. When sound waves travel upward from the larynx some of these harmonics are enhanced in the vocal tract and some are damped, depending on the size and shape of the pharynx (throat) and mouth resonators. When we sing from low to high, we must allow a shift from the formant/harmonic relationship of lower register, known as F1/H2 to a different combination, F2/H3 (back vowels) or F2/H4 (front vowels), associated with upper register. This is “resonance transfer”. We do this by the manner in which we sing the vowel. F1, created in the pharynx or throat, is associated with depth or fullness of sound, called “oscuro”. F1 can be tuned by focusing on laryngeal height, tongue height, and jaw dropping. F2, the “chiaro” is created in the mouth, and is affected by the front or back-ness of the tongue. When resonance is balanced in a singer, the resulting sound has a beautiful balance of bright and dark qualities known as “chiaroscuro”. (Italian for “bright and dark”) due to the balance of F1 and F2 as a result of “tuning” the vowel skillfully.

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