My project will be considering the science behind a cappella. I will be studying the waveforms of different voices individually and combined in order to consider the effects of frequency and vowel/phoneme quality on blend. The motivation for this project comes from experience in my a cappella group, Under Construction, in combination with my experience in my phonetics and phonology course.
When my group rehearses our music, one of the most challenging things to do (besides staying in key) is blending with the other members of the group. Even when we’re all singing the correct notes, if someone’s vowel differs from the rest, they stick out, and the piece sounds bad. We need to blend on high notes as well as low notes– basses need to be able to blend with sopranos. Similarly, we need to sound uniform when we’re singing the same vowels/phones, but I wonder if some phonemic sounds are more conducive to blend based solely on their phonetic properties present in the wave forms.
I plan to complete this analysis by first recording members of my a cappella group in Audacity. I will then import files into a phonetics program called Praat, in which I will create graphs of and analyze the formants present in different sounds and how these differ when there are multiple people singing, when those people are or are not attempting to blend, etc.
Some research has been done to scientifically study choral blend. I found an article in the Journal of Research in Music Education called “An Acoustical Study of Individual Voices in Choral Blend” that talks about how singers’ formants differ when they’re singing a solo piece versus trying to blend with a choir https://doi.org/10.1177/0022429480028002…).
Here is a link of my a cappella performing at a concert at Yale in the hall. This example is especially interesting because we’d never performed in this space before, and the room acoustics were such that it was difficult to hear one another, and this likely had a huge effect on our blend. https://www.youtube.com