Thursday, December 08, 2005

"Voicecraft" Study

The article by Alison D. Banghall and Kirsty McCulloch is about a study on “The Impact of Specific Exertion on the Efficiency and Ease of the Voice.” Previous and recent voice literature has encouraged avoiding exertion, muscular tension and strain by relaxing to produce a better sound. Speech pathologists follow the same techniques with patients with voice disorders by use of “progressive relaxation.” “Progressive relaxation” is done by tensing and relaxing certain parts of the body, one part at a time, to understand what relaxation truly feels like. Contrary to the idea that relaxation produces the best voicing is the belief that those using a great deal of energy and proper amounts of exertion, will produce the best tone. “Voicecraft” is a technique based off of the physiological and acoustical studies of Honda and Estill, which focuses on exertion control to help with health, stamina, and versatility of the voice for both speakers and singers by controlling the laryngeal muscles for efficient functioning of the vocal folds. It’s focus is to help be aware of the difference between the less desirable sound and the sought out sound. To help establish the best form of exertion, whether controlled or not at all, a pilot study was conducted.

The study was made up of 10 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 50, 7 women and 3 men, 7 speech and language therapists and three singers with different levels of training. These volunteers participated in a “Voicecraft” workshop in 2002, in England and Greece. These workshops ranged from 3 to 6 day trainings which taught the volunteers different techniques to control the larynx to rid strain and remain comfortable in order to produce a clear sound. The technique helped the volunteers to contract certain muscles in an orderly fashion and to perceive the difference in different amounts of exertion but does not deal with breathing techniques and avoids all references to relaxation. To help determine if the “Voicecraft” training is beneficial, each subject was hooked up to Sony Digital Audio Tape-corder, Walkman and JVC Binaural Headphone Stereo Microphone and was recorded before and immediately after the training. A subject sang or read a passage, according to their profession, for both recordings, as well as sustained the [i] sound for analysis, then filled out a questionnaire. In this questionnaire the subjects were asked to label the amount of total exertion on a 7-point scale, with 7 being the most. The second question asked them to specify a percentage on certain body parts, corresponding with their total exertion. Lastly, they were asked to rank on a 4 point scale, their total comfort during both recordings, ranging from “uncomfortable” to “extraordinarily easy and comfortable.”

To begin the analysis of the data, the digital recordings of the sustained [i] sound were sent to Kay’s Computerized Speech Laboratory, in Lincoln Park, NJ.. Similar 10 second sections of both the pre-training and post-training recordings were analyzed specifically for noise-to-harmonic ratio, and jitter and shimmer, to measure the level of efficiency of the signal. Then the recordings of the passages and songs were analyzed by 6 experts: 3 speech pathologists and 3 experienced voice instructors. These experts were asked to compare the pairs of recordings, played in random order, for each subject, and decide which recording had a better tone quality with respects to “audible breathiness, strain, or roughness.”

The results of the questionnaires completed by the subjects show they rated “comfort and ease” significantly higher for the post-training recordings. The average rating at this point was 3.5 on a 4 point scale. 50% of the subjects stated their voices were uncomfortable pre-training, but post-training, all of the subjects stated complete comfort with half of them stating it to be “extraordinarily easy and comfortable.” The overall exertion had little change on the 7 point scale where 4 subjects said they felt an increase, 1 said it remained the same, and 5 said it had decreased. The percentage assignment to a specific body part’s exertion showed only one increase in exertion: the head and neck. The chest, throat and abdomen all showed a decrease. The most significant change in exertion was with an increase in the back. The results showed an 18.72% increase, changing from an average of 11.78% to 30%. Although 8 out of 10 subjects reported their back muscles working harder, none of them reported working any less.

The results of the noise-to-harmonic ratio with the sustained [i] sound reported there was a significant difference with an audible improvement in breathiness, strain, and roughness. The results from the perceptual analysis by the experts also reported an improvement. All of the experts agreed which recording of the pair was indeed the post-training sample, but only were able to agree on 8 out of the 10 subjects had outstanding post-training recordings with regards to breathiness, strain, and roughness.

These results show the “Voicecraft” training is efficient and effective by producing a significant improvement in the quality of the voice while increasing the level of comfort and ease. The subjects were never told to sing a specific way during either recording ,yet the results of the post-training recording show the subjects had remembered and applied the techniques. “Voicecraft” targets reduction of strain in the throat, abdomen, and chest and an increase of exertion in the head, neck, and back. This technique’s efficiency is shown through the decrease of the average percentage of overall exertion in the throat, chest and abdomen, and a significant increase in the back. Relaxation was never mentioned during the training, yet it is evident that controlled relaxation in specific areas occurred, which allowed for the controlled exertion in the other areas. This study of “Voicecraft” training shows it is effective to not be completely relaxed when wanting the best voice quality, but it is not the only effective training. Other similar techniques are also being tested and studied to hopefully define the best use of controlled relaxation and exertion to efficiently produce the best clarity of voice.


Blogger gfunk5 said...

You had a solid presentation. Everything was clear and easy to remember.

Thursday, December 08, 2005 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Keely said...

Great job! Your presentation was clear and easy to follow.

Friday, December 09, 2005 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger dbu_us said...

Interesting Study. Nice flow.

Friday, December 09, 2005 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger Anna said...

Very good wording and interesting topic. Maybe a little long.

Friday, December 09, 2005 3:48:00 PM  
Blogger mavoix said...

Good job! I didn't feel that the topic was long at all; a person uninterested in voice wouldn't read it in the first place, anyway. It may be intersting to think about the fact that the subjects trying to achieve confort could also go in hand with relaxation. Also, something may feel right or come out well enough for a person, but if more neck muscles are used, doesn't that usually hint more to strain and a lack of support? Very intersting article. Good job!

Friday, December 09, 2005 11:36:00 PM  
Blogger saxubatar said...

Flowed very well. No need to shorten it...decent length. I want to know what was specifically done to induce the relaxation and movement of tension.

Saturday, December 10, 2005 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

The article I read really didn't say much about the actually technique used-- mainly just how the experiment was conducted and what not. Sorry.

Monday, December 12, 2005 2:45:00 PM  

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