Vibration and Proportionality

Making a musical sound requires three ingredients: a generator, a vibrator, and a resonator. This fact of acoustics can be found in almost any physics textbook. The generator is something that moves. That movement causes the vibrator to vibrate. The resonator is something in the vicinity of the vibrator that vibrates sympathetically with it, and thus amplifies and helps define the quality of the sound. (…)

Finally, we come to the human voice. Speaking in purely acoustical terms, airflow is the generator, the vocal folds
(which are located inside the larynx or voice box, behind the Adam’s apple) are the vibrators, and the primary resonators are the nasal cavity, mouth, and pharynx.

“The Naked Voice” by Steve Smith

The author above goes on to explain that the voice is much more than just another musical instrument (note the “purely acoustical terms” of the description above) and that speaking and breathing are the foundation of singing. Obvious? Yet good to meditate upon. If you can breathe and speak, you can sing.

Our breath can be described as horizontal proportionality. Phrasing and the rhythm of our speech is impacted by our breath control.

Likewise, the vibrations of our vocal folds are a vertical proportionality (pitch is described as “higher” or “lower”).

To feel and internalize our understanding of these vibrations, we suggest two exercises:

  • sing while plugging your ears (or sing under water). You will thus be able to segregate the sound you receive through your ears, and the vibrations that never left your body. Focus your attention on the latter.
  • Use a tuning fork as below to anchor your singing pitch, feeling the vibrations of the sound, rather than hearing it.

As quick illustration, below is a video of a tuning fork giving the tone of a 440 Hertz frequency*. In other words, this tuning fork vibrates 440 times per second. Conventions have named this note  “A4”, or “A above middle C”). The note represented by twice the frequency (880 Hertz) is called the OCTAVE of A4, called by convention “A5”. The note represented by half the frequency (220 Hertz) is also the OCTAVE of A4, called “A3”. Listen to the difference between 220hz, 440 hz and 880hz here.

*NOTE: In our section where we detail the “Psalm Modes”used in “Introit and Communion verses”, we use this 220 hertz frequency (one octave down from 440 hertz) as “reciting tone”

You can buy a 440-hertz tuning fork on Amazon from under $6 (close enough to 440hz) to $13-per-unit (right on 440hz)

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