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Title: An investigation into the effect of acoustics on vocal strain of Opera singers
Author: Okten, Gizem
ISNI:       0000 0004 7224 723X
Awarding Body: London South Bank University
Current Institution: London South Bank University
Date of Award: 2016
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Professional classical singing requires dedication and a significant amount of practice in order to properly sing the challenging pieces. Classical singers not only practice to become an expert in their techniques but also must understand the context, emotions and delivery of each musical piece. Acoustics of practice rooms are crucial as the singers spend most of their learning process in these rooms. Previous research on singers’ voice focused on the voice and vocal health issues. This allowed improved treatments and techniques in the clinical practice for singers’ vocal health. However, little research has been undertaken on how room acoustics affect the voice dosimetry and perception of classical singers. This research examines singers’ objective vocal dosimetry and subjective perception data together with the room acoustic parameters with an aim to find the preferred practice room conditions of the Opera singers. Singers are known to be professional voice users which are a group at risk from voice disorders. Therefore improving their singing environment for their vocal health is as necessary as the improvement of clinical practice. This research aims to find out the effect of the room environment on the vocal loading parameters and subjective parameters of the Opera singers with a focus on the practice rooms then to find out singers’ preferred practicing conditions to suggest target values for the room parameters that show correlation with the singers’ parameters. For this purpose, research was undertaken with the kind assistance of 117 Opera singers. First a pilot study was conducted in the Acoustic Laboratories of the London South Bank University in order to determine and validate the methodology of the research, second a Field study in the practice rooms of the Royal Academy of Music was conducted with an aim to find the relationship between singers’ data regarding their vocal dose parameters, perception and preferences of the acoustics of the practice rooms and thirdly, as a side study of the research, to find out Opera singers’ daily vocal load during a typical working day in order to make a comparison with daily vocal loading of professional voice users. It was found that there was no significant change in the Opera singers’ vocal loading in the laboratory spaces even though these rooms had extreme acoustic conditions in terms of background noise and reverberation. Likewise, no significant change was observed in their vocal loading parameters in the practice rooms. However, students’ subjective response to the different acoustic conditions of the practice rooms showed significant change and very strong correlations were observed with the T30 room acoustic parameter at 4k octave band and C80 from 500 Hz to 4 kHz. Using the information a preferred design for practice room acoustics for Opera singers was established based on room dimension, T30, C80 and G parameters at the frequencies showing the greatest correlation with the singers’ data that correspond to singers’ preferred ratings. In addition, the results of the side study showed that the Opera singers’ daily sound pressure levels due to overall vocal activity including both speech and singing and due to only singing were higher than other professional voice users such as teachers and call-centre operators and these levels were found to be reached over a shorter phonation time which showed that they are exposed to higher vocal loading.
Supervisor: Dance, Stephen ; Gomez-Agustina, Luis Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral