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Predicted Singers' Vocal Fold Lengths and Voice Classification—A Study of X-Ray Morphological Measures

      Summary

      Students admitted to the solo singing education at the University of Music Dresden, Germany have been submitted to a detailed physical examination of a variety of factors with relevance to voice function since 1959. In the years 1959–1991, this scheme of examinations included X-ray profiles of the singers' vocal tracts. This material of 132 X-rays of voice professionals was used to investigate different laryngeal morphological measures and their relation to vocal fold length. Further, the study aimed to investigate if there are consistent anatomical differences between singers of different voice classifications. The study design used was a retrospective analysis. Vocal fold length could be measured in 29 of these singer subjects directly. These data showed a strong correlation with the anterior-posterior diameter of the subglottis and the trachea as well as with the distance from the anterior contour of the thyroid cartilage to the anterior contour of the spine. These relations were used in an attempt to predict the 132 singers' vocal fold lengths. The results revealed a clear covariation between predicted vocal fold length and voice classification. Anterior-posterior subglottic-tracheal diameter yielded mean vocal fold lengths of 14.9, 16.0, 16.6, 18.4, 19.5, and 20.9 mm for sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, altos, tenors, baritones, and basses, respectively. The data support the assumption that there are consistent anatomical laryngeal differences between singers of different voice classifications, which are of relevance to pitch range and timbre of the voice.

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