Measured parameters of vocal performance in young actors and singers

Lead Research Organisation: Solent University
Department Name: Faculty of Technology


Research based literature on the young voice is extremely limited and generally qualitative in nature, focusing on perceptual 'measures' of the voice such as tone and range. There is very little quantitative data to back up assumptions made about the mechanisms which cause these tonal qualities, and more importantly there is currently no developmental model of the young voice.

Vocal performance of adult singers is reasonably well documented, with several detailed studies on adult singers and comprehensive theoretical models. However, the lack of solid quantifiable research on the voice of young singers has led to a lack of understanding in the vocal community about how young voices develop, the effect of training and the difference between voices in boys and girls. Without a comprehensive model of the singing voice of young people, this lack of understanding is likely to continue, and could cause problems for young people learning singing if adult models are applied to vocal training of young people.

The young vocal system is structurally significantly different to the adult voice with differences in tissue structure, vocal tract dimensions, lung capacity and glottal configuration. The vocal system also changes at a rapid rate over the period of adolescence. Models of understanding applicable to adult voices cannot therefore be applied to children or adolescents, and it could be potentially damaging to treat young voices in an adult fashion.

The aim of this study is to analyse vocal performance of child singers and actors training in contemporary commercial music (CCM) voice styles, in order to develop a vocal model of the effect on child and adolescent voices of vocal training in a stage manner and of pubertal vocal development. CCM styles of training and voice production differ considerably from 'classical' technique, and an understanding of this under-researched area is an extremely important part of developing a comprehensive model. This will allow dissemination of an enhanced understanding of the voices of young singers into the music community, which will help in the development of technique informed by a good understanding of the vocal system.

This study follows previous work by the principal investigator in which voices of child singers trained in a 'classical' style were analysed, and which developed a general vocal model of the performance of young classical singers. The results of studying CCM students will then be combined with this model to formulate a general model of development of measurable vocal parameters of young singers and actors in both 'classical' and CCM styles.

The study uses quantitative data analysis. Data will be collected from the recording of a statistically viable sample of young voices aged 8-18 years from theatre arts schools in the UK. Students will be recorded using a common methodology, using a combination of acoustic (microphone) and laryngographic recordings.

The methodology involves recording young singers on location during singing lessons, using a standard vocal assessment protocol as defined in a number of previous studies. The study will be used as a pilot project, examining a statistically viable number of individual voices and analysing their results in terms of know criteria such as length of training and stage of vocal development derived from mean spoken F0.

It is felt that the project offers the opportunity to build a far greater understanding of the effect on vocal production of training in different singing styles, allowing the development of a detailed theoretical model of vocal development in children and adolescentswhich will underpin development and teaching of singing technique. In addition to a model of singing production, the data will also enhance current research on the spoken voice. The outputs of the research will include dissemination to both the research and the vocal performance communities.


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Barlow C (2010) Closed quotient and spectral measures of female adolescent singers in different singing styles. in Journal of voice : official journal of the Voice Foundation