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#479747 - 11/30/05 01:26 PM Wow! Remarkable...
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
I'm doing a study of speech vs. song, and maybe I'll post my conclusions later, but I just have to tell you what I'm discovering right now, because it is so contrary to what would be expected.


So what I've done is I've recorded several people singing and speaking a text. Right now, I'm looking at graphs of people singing and speaking the word "Supercalafragilisticexpialadocious" (from Mary Poppins - you know the tune?)

Anyway, for three people so far I have measured the pitch ranges of their recordings of this word.


Person 1:

Pitch range for speech: 114.09 Hz
Pitch range for song: 71.91 Hz


Person 2:

Pitch range for speech: 66.85 Hz
Pitch range for song: 54.01 Hz


Person 3:

Pitch range for speech: 130.23 Hz
Pitch range for song: 105.89 Hz


Notice that they all sang/spoke differently, because they're different people, and they were singing from memory and not with the music in front of them. But in all three cases, all three people spoke this word with a much greater pitch range than when they sang it!


Wow, this is exciting, because it's exactly the opposite of what I (and everyone I've discussed this study with) had expected.


Of course, there are obviously times when a song will have a much greater pitch range than the spoken lyrics, and most people know that intuitively. This has led many people to suggest that a defining difference between song and speech is that song has a wider pitch range than speech. But this example that I have (in which speech has a wider range than song) now proves that pitch range is NOT a defining factor between song and speech.
_________________________
Sam

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#479748 - 11/30/05 01:43 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17815
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Very interesting, Sam! But you might be overstating your conclusion in the final sentence a tad...I am always reminding my students that we never "prove" anything in science, only support or fail to support a hypothesis.

I would agree with you, though, that pitch range is not THE defining factor between song and speech (though it probably is A factor).

Were there differences in mean (average) pitch for speech vs. singing? My guess is that pitch is higher for singing; did you find that in your data?

Also, have you looked at the stuttering research? I believe that studies show that people who stutter badly while speaking do not stutter while singing...which suggests fundamental brain differences/locations for speech vs. singing, which is where I'd put my money for the defining difference between the two.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#479749 - 11/30/05 01:50 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
Definately, I would think that there is a difference in which parts of the brain are signaling song vs. speech and how they are signaling the action of producing song vs. speech.

My interest in this study, though, is the actual perception of song vs. speech - many people just naturally hear the difference between sounds of speech and sounds of song, so it's these sound differences that I'm looking at.


I ought to look at the average pitch next - but that can't really be a huge factor, either, because even if you've never heard a person speak before, you can still tell if they are singing (without comparing the song that you are hearing with the singer's normal speaking voice; and vice-versa)


Edit: Well, it actually may be a significant difference (or maybe not, depending on the range of the song - for example, maybe a bass singer is singing a very low pitched song but ordinarily doesn't speak so low). Maybe it is a difference, but just not a difference that really affects perception.

Hmmmmm......
_________________________
Sam

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#479750 - 11/30/05 02:25 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
sarabande Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/18/05
Posts: 1597
Loc: Mo.
Thanks for sharing your information, etc. I found it interesting and will be looking foward to reading further what everyone has to say.

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#479751 - 11/30/05 02:32 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
yellowville Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/17/05
Posts: 246
Loc: Ithaca, NY
Interesting! I just did my own little experiment: say "Supercali..." in a monotone, like a robot. It actually sounds more like the sung version than the spoken.

When one sings, especially that little melody, one does try to keep a tight rein on the pitch. Whereas in speaking, we feel free to let pitch go all over the place... that's what creates expressive communication.
_________________________
That man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest. - H. D. Thoreau

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#479752 - 11/30/05 02:58 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by yellowville:
When one sings, especially that little melody, one does try to keep a tight rein on the pitch. Whereas in speaking, we feel free to let pitch go all over the place... that's what creates expressive communication.[/b]
Aha. That's a good thought.

Well, here's what I've got for one of the people so far. I measured the pitch contour (rise or fall) of each syllable (each person sang or spoke the entire word, and then on the computer I looked at each syllable individually):


Speak 'Super': +3.56 /// Sing 'Super': +31.79
Speak 'Cala': -36.28 /// Sing 'Cala': -7.57
Speak 'Fragi': -10.21 /// Sing 'Fragi': -28.09
Speak 'Listic': -12.61 /// Sing 'Listic': -16.36
Speak 'Expi': -6.33 /// Sing 'Expi': +2.81
Speak 'Ala': +15.99 /// Sing 'Ala': +0.5
Speak 'Docious': -60.78 /// Sing 'Docious': -13.59

Average spoken contour: -23.92
Average sung contour: -4.35


So the sung version seems to be much tighter and more step-wise (except for a couple syllables) than the spoken version. Well, at least for this particular person, and for this particular song. It may be entirely different for a song that is not so step-wise.
_________________________
Sam

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#479753 - 11/30/05 03:15 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica Kern:
Were there differences in mean (average) pitch for speech vs. singing? My guess is that pitch is higher for singing; did you find that in your data? [/b]
Oh, you'll love this. \:D

I averaged the pitch for each syllable, and then averaged the average pitch of each syllable to find an average pitch for the entire word:


Speaker 1

Speech: 129.11 Hz
Song: 121.86 Hz


Speaker 2

Speech: 128.58 Hz
Song: 142.98 Hz


:p


But... before I did that, I looked at the spectrographs of each recording and guessed where the average would be (by placing a line about halfway through the graph), and here's what I had gotten by that method:


Speaker 1

Speech: 130 Hz
Song: 144 Hz


Speaker 2

Speech: 144 Hz
Song: 162 Hz


Hmmmmmmm......
_________________________
Sam

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#479754 - 11/30/05 05:26 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
PerformingYak Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/16/05
Posts: 205
Loc: Lightning Ridge, Australia
Have you read anything on amusia. I found it very interesting to read about one very severe case. A french speaking woman could not tell the difference between high and low notes, or hear rhythms properly. To her music sounded like one big compression of sound and actually was stressful to handle.
She could however detect the subtle inflections in peoples voices when they were speaking to her (eg the difference between a question and a statement)

A little different to singing/speaking but still just as interesting
_________________________
"Work hard and strive to reach the power of bland"

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#479755 - 11/30/05 06:45 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
unacorda Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/28/05
Posts: 21
Loc: New York
Hi everyone,

This thread reminds me of research by Diana Deutsch. She has an intriguing demonstration on one of her CDs. You can read about it and listen to it at the following URL (scroll down to the 'But They Sometimes Behave So Strangely' heading about three-quarters of the way down the page, and listen to "Track 22".)

http://www.philomel.com/phantom_words/description.html

Nice!

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#479756 - 11/30/05 06:51 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by unacorda:
(scroll down to the 'But They Sometimes Behave So Strangely' heading about three-quarters of the way down the page, and listen to "Track 22".)

http://www.philomel.com/phantom_words/description.html
[/b]
Wow, that's incredible. I wonder what's going on there...


Edit: I'm listening to it again, and that phrase immediately sounds like song to me. I can't even hear it as speech anymore, even after a short break...
_________________________
Sam

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#479757 - 12/04/05 04:16 AM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
Wombat66 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/31/05
Posts: 262
Loc: Cornwall UK
Sam. I dont wish to put out your bonfire with the contents of my bladder, but surely: Pitch range for song is dictated by the song itself. The pitch range for each singer would depend upon how well they were singing the song.
The pitch range for speech depends upon anatomical factors: anatomy of the larynx, mouth, tongue and throat and lung physiology. Neurlological factors - the actual innervation of all these structures to modulate the speech, and psychological factors such as mood, stress, habit, dialect and factors that influence these.
Warning. I'm not an ENT sugreon, what I know about speech production can be written on a very small postage stamp, and what I've just written came from the top of my keyboard on a Sunday morning so it might all be a load of swollocks anyway

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#479758 - 12/04/05 09:38 AM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18292
Loc: Victoria, BC
Sam :

So far, you've talked only about pitch. What about duration of sound? Surely, one other of the great distinctions between speech and singing is the duration (i.e. note value) of each syllable.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
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#479759 - 12/04/05 10:14 AM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Wombat66:
Pitch range for song is dictated by the song itself. The pitch range for each singer would depend upon how well they were singing the song. [/b]
Of course, but my point is this: the assumption was that songs always have a greater pitch range than speech. But here is an example to show that this is not always true.
_________________________
Sam

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#479760 - 12/04/05 01:22 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17815
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica Kern:
Were there differences in mean (average) pitch for speech vs. singing? My guess is that pitch is higher for singing; did you find that in your data? [/b]
Oh, you'll love this. \:D

I averaged the pitch for each syllable, and then averaged the average pitch of each syllable to find an average pitch for the entire word:


Speaker 1

Speech: 129.11 Hz
Song: 121.86 Hz


Speaker 2

Speech: 128.58 Hz
Song: 142.98 Hz


:p


But... before I did that, I looked at the spectrographs of each recording and guessed where the average would be (by placing a line about halfway through the graph), and here's what I had gotten by that method:


Speaker 1

Speech: 130 Hz
Song: 144 Hz


Speaker 2

Speech: 144 Hz
Song: 162 Hz


Hmmmmmmm...... [/b]
Another hypothesis slayed by inconsistent results, darn it.

I'm still wondering how much of your results are driven by the idiosyncratic nature of the song "superdcali..." It is, after all, a phrase where there's very little going on musically. If you were making a doctoral dissertayion out of this and I were on your committee, I'd probably make you analyze a large number of song clips just to get some stimulus generalization. But given that your whole point was to find some exception to the accepted rule that singing has more pitch variability than speaking, you have been very successful in doing so.
_________________________
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

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#479761 - 12/04/05 02:33 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
Wombat66 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/31/05
Posts: 262
Loc: Cornwall UK
Did you take any readings from Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp family, or whoever she was singing with at the time?
However, I do think that it is entirely unsurprising that the hypothesis "songs always have a greater pitch range than speech" has been found to be untrue.
Gregorian chant, or one of the more depressing Leonard Cohen songs would always have a very limited pitch range. If Leonard Cohen could be successfully taught to sing a Mozart aria he would have a huge pitch range.
Professional impressionists...are they singing or are they speaking? If they were to impersonate a dull man speaking a monologue they would have a limited pitch range. Were they to impersonate a football commentator at the climax of the world cup the pitch range would be enormous. If the same impersonator were to sing what he had previously said, what would happen to his pitch range?
Depends on the tune.
Your assumption, with which I entirely agree, is that opera singers don't vary their pitch by 3 octaves in normal conversation, but I do not think that any extrapolations can be held beyond that.
Monica's post reminds me of a quote I heard that goes something like "a hypothesis is believed by no-one except the person who thought of it, whereas experimental data is believed by everyone except the person who obtained it!"
Good luck with the study.

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#479762 - 12/04/05 08:11 PM Re: Wow! Remarkable...
pianojerome Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/05
Posts: 9868
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica Kern:
 Quote:
Originally posted by pianojerome:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Monica Kern:
Were there differences in mean (average) pitch for speech vs. singing? My guess is that pitch is higher for singing; did you find that in your data? [/b]
Oh, you'll love this. \:D

I averaged the pitch for each syllable, and then averaged the average pitch of each syllable to find an average pitch for the entire word:
...
...
[/b]
Another hypothesis slayed by inconsistent results, darn it.[/b]
Woops, sorry. I made a mistake.

Here's the corrected data for average pitch:


Speaker 1 speech: 129.11
Speaker 1 song: 140.02

Speaker 2 speech: 128.58
Speaker 2 song: 142.98

Speaker 3 speech: 231.16
Speaker 3 song: 283.35

(Speakers 1 & 2 are male, Speaker 3 is female)


So, naturally, they all sang with a higher average pitch than they spoke. But I wonder how the data would change if they were asked to sing in a lower register... perhaps the untrained voice is limited in its singing range by its speaking range...
_________________________
Sam

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