Vocal Acoustics Laboratory

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IntroductionEquipment | Research | Workshops | DVD

Introduction

Funded by a generous grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Vocal Acoustics Laboratory at the University of Alberta's Campus Saint-Jean in Edmonton opened its doors in 2006. Studies deal primarily with the acoustics of the singing voice and more specifically with the acoustics of choral singing. Other subjects such as the energy and health of the speaking voice in various settings (classroom teaching, acting, etc) are also undertaken.

Standardization and correction of linguistic accents is also emerging as an area of interest as Campus Saint-Jean is the leader in French-language post-secondary education in Western Canada. Thanks to an official partnership with IRCAM (Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique) in Paris, we have access to a plethora of innovative analysis tools and acoustic wisdom. Principles of the bel canto method of singing form the overarching core of what is to be explored and discovered, and quantification of that ever-elusive property of vocal beauty is what drives our work.

Equipment

Microphones
2 Microtech Gefell M296 condenser microphones
2 David Josephson C42 condenser microphones
2 Microtek Gefell M296 condenser mics
4 Nuemann KM 185 hyper-cardioid condenser mics
8 AKG C520 headset microphones
1 AKG C420 headset condensor microphone
1 Sennheiser En122 wireless microphone set
4 IRF reflexion filters
Speakers
  • NAD C162 Preamplifier, Audio Refinement Multi2 Amplifier
  • Dynaudio Focus 140 Studio Reference Monitors
  • Yorkville C120P self-powered monitors
  • Grado RS 2 reference series headphones
  • AKG 240 DF headphones
  • Sennheiser HD457 headphones
  • Sony 7506 electret headset
Musical instruments
  • Yamaha P140 Electric piano
Voice analysis software
From KayPentax
  • Computerized Speech Lab Model 4500
  • Real Time Pitch Model 5121
  • Sona-Match Model 5127
  • Video Phonetics Model 5150
  • Real time Spectrograph Model 5129
  • Voice Range Profile Model 4326
  • Phonatory Aerodynamic System Model 6600
  • Nasometer II Model 6400
  • Auditory Feedback Tools
  • Multidimensional Voice Program Model 5105
  • Real Time EGG Model 5138
  • Palatometer Database Model 4333
  • Phonetic Database Model 4332
  • Multispeech
  • Speech Articulation Animation
  • Phonetic & Perception Simulation Model 5151
  • Respiration and Phonation
  • Applied Speech Science for Voice and Resonance Disorders
  • Phonetic Database
  • 2 Electroglottographs Model 6103
From IRCAM
  • XSpect
  • Audiosculpt
En provenance d'autres fournisseurs
  • KYMA Capybara320 synthesis engine & software
  • VoceVista Pro : vocal singing analytical software
  • Spirometrics Flowmate V
  • Bruel & Kjaer Model 2250 Hand Held Acoustic Analyzer
  • Bruel & Kjaer Dirac analytical software
Audio recording software
  • Cubase SX 3 digital audio workstation
  • Wavelab digital 2 track editing software
  • Waves Mastering Software
  • Waves Restoration Package
  • Peak Pro Audio workstation
  • Finale 2007 music notation software
Video equipment
  • 2 Sony Z1U HDV Video cameras
  • Final Cut Pro video editing suite
  • Manfrotto camera tripods
  • MacPro 8 core computer
  • 2 video monitors
  • Lighting equipment
  • Sony DCR DVD 505 Digital camcorder and tripod
  • NEC LT30 data projector and screen
Other equipment
  • Presonus Firebox audio interface
  • Fireface 800 audio interface
  • Behringer 8 channel distribution amp
  • Focusrite Sapphire interface
  • Sony XL1 mic preamp
  • Sony D50 PCM audio recorder
  • Sony D1 PCM audio recorder
  • Tascam HDP2 audio recorder
  • Marantz PSD 430 Cd recorder
  • Mackie Onyx 1620i Firewire Mixer

Research

The Impact of Bel Canto Principles on Vocal Beauty, Energy and Health
Ingressive Vocal Fry

Laurier Fagnan, DMusc

Ingressive or inhaled vocal fry is a very particular technique used for the singing of very low pitches. When well performed, this register (also called Pulse register) can help bass singers extend their range by up to an octave. The author discovered his ability to perform these ultra low notes with surprising power while imitating the computer-enhanced voice of a hauntingly low bass on the radio. Subsequent attempts to use the technique while singing proved quite successful and consistently enabled the singing of pitches far lower than most basso profundos, right to the bottom of the piano (27Hz). Although the technique would not necessarily be utilized in a solistic, melodic fashion, it is quite effective when used in choral singing.

Some of the acoustic characteristics of the technique include a high rate of glottal closure as well as very rapid closure, both of which ensure a spectrum very rich in upper partials. Consequently, these notes are much more audible than if they were sung in regular chest voice, if this were possible. Because this technique uses a slight but constant inhalation gesture (i.e. very little air is actually entering) and glottal closure is so high, it is possible to sustain a sound or phrase for far longer periods of time than what would normally be possible. Although these pitches are very low, the effect of the fundamental frequency and first harmonics on the sound is almost negligible and most of the perceptive acoustic information is extracted from upper frequencies.

Here are some examples of the author using this technique:

  1. Vowel series [a-e-i-o-u] sung on a double low G (49Hz)
  2. Descending A Major scale to 27 Hertz (last note on piano)

Download PDF


DVD and Workshops

Workshops in Vocal Technique for Choirs

With a Master's in vocal pedagogy and a doctorate in choral conducting, there is nothing Laurier Fagnan enjoys more than helping choirs to achieve their full vocal potential. He has offered hundreds of workshops to choirs of all levels from school groups to philharmonic choruses and award-winning chamber choirs in Canada and Europe. He thoroughly enjoys helping each ensemble discover its potential for truly beautiful, healthy, in-tune, balanced and colourful vocal tone. Too often as we seek a homogeneous tone from our ensembles, wanting no voice to individually penetrate the group's sound, the meritorious goal of 'blend' can become confused with 'bland' and ensembles are denied much of the colour and power that the music so rightly deserves. While it may be true that no voices stick out with this approach, it is also true that few voices are allowed to fully contribute their inherent potential. As Coffin so aptly states, "there is no reason to have a Stradivarius sound like a cigar-box violin so that both will sound the same." It is Fagnan's desire to awaken the vocal Stradivarius within each chorister in an ensemble so that all can contribute in a compelling and gratifying manner without compromising any of the standards of great choral (as opposed to solo) singing.

The vocal principles of the bel canto method of singing form the core of the pedagogical material to be covered during workshops. Special attention is paid to the inseparable and interdependent pillars of breath control, focused core vibration and chiaroscuro resonance balancing to bring about vocal tone that is energetic but not effortful, colourful but not heavy, clear but not strident, and capable of a full palate of dynamic and timbral nuances to ensure moving, multi-layered musical interpretations. See the pdf document below on bel canto principles for more detailed information.

Workshops can last anywhere from 1 hour to a full weekend depending on how much detail is desired and how much repertoire is to be studied.

For further information or to book Laurier Fagnan for a workshop, conference or for guest conducting, please contact him at lfagnan@ualberta.ca.

Transform Your Choir's Sound: Exceptional Choral Singing with Bel Canto Vocal Principles

This new instructional DVD has been in preparation for several years and should hit the market during the summer of 2012. It aims to be the most complete tool available which focuses on improving the quality of choral singing. It will highlight the time-proven principles of the bel canto method of singing which have consistently helped vocal artists to excel for (centuries) and apply these principles of breath control, focused core vibration and chiaroscuro resonance in an appropriate and effective manner for choral singing. It will help to dispel many of the unfortunate myths and miscommunications that have troubled vocal pedagogy for years and help both conductors and choristers (as well as solo singers) to focus on the truly crucial elements of vocal production, technique and esthetics that will enable all to perform at a higher vocal level, one where beauty and energy replace strain and effort, where 'blend' does is not synonymous with 'bland' and where conductor, chorister and audience can together rediscover the inherent power of choral singing.

Although the DVD will be essentially pedagogical in nature, it will also feature a bevy of acoustical substantiation with the latest technology in 3-D real-time analyses to quantify the 'before-and-after' differences. These will confirm that important aspects such as intonation, a fuller harmonic spectrum, sustained legato phrases and blend are generally improved after the principles are applied. Viewers will witness choirs applying these principles for the first time and will immediately hear and see the impact they have on choral singing and receive instruction into the application to their singing as well as pedagogical tips for the conductor.

This project has been made possible through a major grant from Western Economic Diversification as well as through funding from Campus Saint-Jean and Alberta Foundation for the Arts. We are also grateful to the Analysis/Synthesis department at Ircam in Paris, notably Xavier Rodet and Nicolas Obin, to whom we owe an ongoing debt for much of the acoustical analysis work for this and other projects. Below is an example of the type of acoustical analysis that will be featured on the DVD.

To receive the DVD, please contact lfagnan@ualberta.ca.