Research Article|Articles in Press

Assessing Acoustic Parameters in Early Music and Romantic Operatic Singing



      Since the recent early music (EM) revival, a subset of singers have begun to specialize in a style of singing that is perceptually different from the more “mainstream” romantic operatic (RO) singing style. The aim of this study is to characterize EM with respect to RO singing in terms of its vibrato characteristics and the singer's formant cluster.

      Study Design

      This study presents a within-subject experimental design.


      Ten professional singers (5 F; 5M) versed in both EM and RO repertoire were enrolled in the study. Each singer recorded the first 10 bars of the famous Aria, “Amarilli Mia Bella” (Giulio Caccini, 1602) a cappella, in RO and EM styles, in random order. Three sustained notes were extracted from the acoustical recordings and were analyzed using the free user-friendly software Biovoice to extract five parameters: vibrato rate, vibrato extent, vibrato jitter (Jvib), vibrato shimmer, and quality ratio (QR), an estimation of the singer's formant power.


      Vibrato in EM singing was characterized by a higher rate, a smaller extent, and less regular cycle-cycle period duration (higher Jvib) compared to RO singing. As in previous studies, RO singing presented a more prominent singer's formant, as indicated by a smaller QR.


      Acoustical analysis of some vibrato characteristics and the Singer's Formant significantly differentiated EM from RO singing styles. Given the acoustical distinctions between EM and RO styles, future scientific and musicological studies should consider distinguishing between the two styles rather than using a singular term for and description of Western Classical singing.

      Key Words

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