Measuring Sound and Your Voice

Yes, you produce sound or noise every day!

The difference between your sounds is caused by intensity, pitch, and tone.

What is Intensity?

Your sound is a wave and waves have amplitude, or height. Amplitude is a measure of energy, how much oomph you put into it! The more oomph you give the higher the amplitude.

When energy increases, Intensity increases. Simple, hey?

The smaller the space the less energy is required to achieve the same Intensity. We tend to call higher intensity sounds, louder. Loudness cannot be assigned a specific number, but intensity can.

Intensity is measured in decibels.

The human ear is more sensitive to high sounds, so the next time you are stranded, twist your knickers and make the highest sound you can. You will be heard as this type of sound will travel further. That is why we scream for help when in trouble as  a natural reflex that is effective in getting attention! REEEEEEEEEEE……

Decibels and intensity, however, do not depend on the ear. They can be measured with an instruments. A whisper is about 10 decibels while thunder is 100 decibels.

Listening to loud sounds, sounds with intensities above 85 decibels, may damage your ears. If a noise is loud enough, over 120 decibels, it can be painful to listen to. One hundred and twenty decibels is the threshold of pain but thebuddha may dissagree on this.

Sounds and their Decibels

Source of SoundDecibels

Boeing 747

140
Civil Defense Siren130
Jack Hammer120
Rock Concert110
Lawn Mower100
Motorcycle90
Garbage Disposal80
Vacuum Cleaner70
Normal Conversation60
Light Traffic50
Background Noise40
Whisper30

What is Pitch

Pitch helps us distinguish between low and high sounds.

Pitch depends on the frequency of a sound wave. Frequency is the number of wavelengths that fit into one unit of time. Remember that a wavelength is equal to one compression and one rarefaction. Frequencies are measured in hertz. One hertz is equal to one cycle of compression and rarefaction per second.

High sounds have high frequencies and low sounds have low frequencies. Thunder has a frequency of only 50 hertz, while a whistle can have a frequency of 1,000 hertz.

The human ear is able to hear frequencies of 20 to 20,000 hertz. Some animals can hear sounds at even higher frequencies. Sounds that are too high for us to hear are called ultrasonic.

What is Tone & Harmonics ?

When a source vibrates, it actually vibrates with many frequencies at the same time. Each of those frequencies produces a wave. Sound quality depends on the combination of different frequencies of sound waves.

How is this knowledge useful in everyday life?

The more harmonics a sound has, the fuller the quality the sound is. All the different overtones of a sound help give it a unique pattern. This is especially true for a person’s voice. Everybody in the world has a different voice print, or pattern of overtones within a certain range.

What specific voice type or vocal range do I have?

If you do not know what your range is then you need to find out. It is important to know what range your voice is in to perform songs confidently.

It’s best use a five-note scale, singing up and down the entire scale until your voice cracks or you cannot hit a note. It is recommended that you sing the scale with a vowel sound — try “ah” — making sure to pick a comfortable middle pitch to start the scale on. From there, move your voice up a pitch. It is generally recommended to scale up in half notes — a small step musically — so you can ascertain exactly which notes you can and can no longer hit. 

Here is a Two Minute Video on how to find your range.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IejHKpfHso

The famous French vocal teacher Tarneaud defines the typical ranges of the four voice types as follows: Sopranos can typically sing B3 to F6
A
ltos perform D3 to A5
Tenors belt A2 to A5
Bass singers rumble out B1 to G5.

Basically, Sopranos and Tenors Sing High — Altos and Basses Sing Low, simples

Congratulations you have now discovered your Range and how we measure sound!

So keep the sound alive within your range and watch your intensity while delivering good pitch! You all are such good students here… 🙂

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Throat Singing – The Mongolian way

Throat-singing, also called overtone-singing, is a range of singing styles in which a single vocalist sounds more than one pitch simultaneously by reinforcing certain harmonics (overtones and undertones) of the fundamental pitch. In some styles, harmonic melodies are sounded above a fundamental vocal drone.

Originally called overtone-singing in Western scholarly literature, the identification by acoustical researchers of the presence of harmonics below the vocal drone in the deep, guttural styles, as well as overtones in the more melodic styles led to adoption of the term throat-singing (a translation of the Mongolian term höömei).

Throat-singing necessitates activating different combinations of muscles to manipulate the resonating chambers of the vocal tract under sustained pressurized airflow from the stomach and chest. As with operatic singing, the technique requires years of training to master.

Throat-singers usually accompany themselves on the distinctive Inner Asian fiddle, with its pegboard often carved in the shape of a horse’s head. For an epic-narrative performance, however, the fiddle is replaced with a two-stringed plucked lute or a long board-zither. In the past, throat-singing was performed by men in ritual contexts.


Picture from: NIU Mongolian Throat Singer Brings Sounds Of Nature To Retirement Center

Female performance of throat-singing was thought to cause infertility or to bring misfortune on the performers’ menfolk for seven generations. Since the late 20th century, however, a number of female musicians have begun to challenge those taboos.

Here is an example of Mongolian Throat Singing.

Tuvan Throat Singing

To start the throat singing journey they would encourage you to start with Khöömii, basic – begin by producing a long, steady note with an open, relaxed mouth and throat. By altering lip and tongue positions to say vowels, “oooo… ohhh…. ayyy…. ahhh….. eeee….”, you will hear different overtones in ascending pitch. Cupping a hand to your ear may help you to identify these initially. Maintain one tone as you tighten your throat and stomach muscles slightly. If you choke, try a lower fundamental.

If you begin coughing, go into this tightening over a period of time to avoid damage to your voice. Hard coughing is punishing to the vocal cords…

You should now be making “electronic” sounding vowels. If any of these are extended with subtle changes to the tongue, lips, or jaw (changing one element at a time as in any controlled experiment), separate overtones will gain definition. The sounds you create are feedback leading to finer mouth control.

It may be difficult to sort out the overtones created by each position. Discover them as you work out a scale above one steady fundamental. Eventually simple melodies will emerge within a limited range. As you consciously create melody, avoid the temptation to alter the fundamental. This is basic Khöömii.

By now you should have picked up that Khöömii is steeped in Mongolian culture with origins in Shamanism (Mongolia’s national religion) and many songs are dedicated to Genghis Khan himself.

Interestingly enough the kids and I are currently learning about Mongolia and Genghis Khan and one of the stories I stumbled upon is definitely worth sharing.

In The Book of Virtues (Great book btw!) I found this story about Genghis Khan, his merry party of hunters and his favorite hawk.

This hawk was a trained hunter and at a word would fly high up into the air, and look around for prey, and if found, would swoop down upon it swiftly as any arrow.

So after a very long day filled with no success, his party took the nearest way home and Genghis went searching by a longer road for a drink.
His pet hawk left his wrist and flew away, knowing how to get home on his own.
The king searched but the hot days of summer had dried up all the mountain brooks.

At last, he found some water trickling down over the edge of a rock. He knew that there was a spring farther up. In the wet season, a swift stream of water always poured down here; but now it came only one drop at a time.
The king leaped from his horse and took a little silver cup from his hunting bag. He held it so as to catch the slowly falling drops.

It took a long time to fill the cup; and the king was so thirsty that he could hardly wait. At last it was nearly full. He put the cup to his lips, and was about to drink.

All at once there was a whirring sound in the air, and the cup was knocked from his hands. The water was all spilled upon the ground.

The king looked up to see who had done this thing. It was his pet hawk. The hawk flew back and forth a few times, and then alighted among the rocks by the spring.

The king picked up the cup, and again held it to catch the trickling drops and this time he did not wait so long.
When the cup was half full, he lifted it toward his mouth but before it had touched his lips, the hawk swooped down again, and knocked it from his hands.

And now the king began to grow angry and tried again, and for the third time the hawk kept him from drinking.The king was now very angry indeed!

“How do you dare to act so?” he cried. “If I had you in my hands, I would wring your neck!”

Then he filled his cup again. But before he tried to drink, he drew his sword.
“Now, Sir Hawk,” he said, “that is the last time.”

He had hardly spoken before the hawk swooped down and knocked the cup from his hand but the king was looking for this.
With a quick sweep of the sword he struck the bird as it passed.
The next moment the poor hawk lay bleeding and dying at its master’s feet.

“That is what you get for your pains,” said Genghis Khan.
When he started looking for his cup, he couldn’t find it.

“At any rate, I will have a drink from that spring,” he said to himself.
With determination he began climbing the steep bank to the place from which the water trickled. It was hard work, and the higher he climbed, the thirstier he became.

 At last he reached the place. There indeed was a pool of water; but what was that lying in the pool, and almost filling it?
It was a huge, dead snake of the most poisonous kind!

The king stopped as he forgot his thirst. He thought only of the poor dead bird lying on the ground below him.
“The hawk saved my life!” he cried, “and how did I repay him? He was my best friend, and I have killed him.” 

He clambered down the bank. He took the bird up gently, and laid it in his hunting bag. Then he mounted his horse and rode swiftly home.
He said to himself, “I have learned a sad lesson today, and that is, never to do anything in anger.”

Rewritten: By Nadeshda
Source: The Book of Virtues

So what does this story have to do with Mongolian Throat singing? Well not much really but it’s a good story none the less and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Obviously getting angry and cutting up your friends is never a good idea and we already know that you shouldn’t shout as this will stretch and damage your vocal chords.
If you are still curious and want to learn Mongolian Throat singing, here is a fun video on how to practice throat singing in a super easy way.

I think you will enjoy watching this guy!

How to do Mongolian Throat. (Tuvan / Tibetan / Didgeridoo)

Until next time, keep the song alive and make a joyful sound!

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QUESTION: I think I have damaged vocal cords, can it be repaired?

Short answer: It depends as nerves can heal with the right energy, and nutrients and appropriate protection and use of the injured area. Probably best to discuss the specifics with a practitioner.

Longer answer will lead to more articles: Back in 2012 nearly six percent of the U.S. population had a vocal disorder, often caused by vocal cords that have stiffened due to scarring.

Vocal cords experience a LOT of TRAUMA and see more action daily than any other part of the body. In a single concert a singers vocal-cords can collide tens of thousands of times like mini-car crashes just happening over-and-over again.

Scarring can occur in a number of ways; including cancer and overuse from singing, normal wear and tear and shouting over a group.

The vocal cords, or folds, are made up of three layers: a surface layer, the middle layer (gelatinous) and the deepest layer (muscle).
When the middle gel-like layer is damaged, the top layer sticks to the bottom layer and interrupts vibration, causing hoarseness and this called vocal scarring. 

I would highly recommend seeing a voice specialist in your area to confirm this and not go on a hunch, many times rest and proper care is possibly all you need.

Firstly; I am not a Voice Specialist but you need to make an honest assessment. Do your research, understand your symptoms. A Voice specialist will work with you in understanding your current situation and help you to make progress.

If you have specific questions about:

  1. The normal structure and function of the vocal tract;
  2. Processes of voice production;
  3. Disorders of the voice such as laryngeal nodules, polyps and neoplasms;
  4. Contact ulcers, spasmodic dysphonia, vocal tremor;
  5. Vocal fold paralysis resulting in hoarseness and weakness of the voice.

Get in contact with:
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorder.
They provide free information and assistance in this area.
Here is a link:
https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice-speech-and-language

If you do have permanent damage I would suggest picking up an instrument to make beautiful sound or even consider some practiced farting.:) BUT please do it in tune !

Let me tell you a story where there was a famous flatulist
(yes, this is the correct term) who was paid handsomely for his windy tunes!
Along time ago in dreary twelfth-century England there lived a famous flatulist by the name of Rolandus le Fartere. As the court Jester he was paid handsomely with acres and acres of land to fart before King Henry II at Christmas time. Every year he was called to perform “Unum saltum et siffletum et unum bumbulum
(one jump, one whistle, and one fart).

Make a merry sound and don’t let anyone stop you! I hope this article helped you understand that there are resources available and I will be looking at some methods to prevent voice damage in the coming weeks and some home remedies!

Until then, keep the song alive !

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