Can't sing, won't sing

Coordinator – Prof David Howard (Audio Laboratory, Department of Electronics, University of York)

 Participants - Dr Helena Daffern and Ms Jude Brereton (Audio Laboratory, Department of Electronics,
University of York), Ben Johnson and Mark Hildred (Apollo Creative)

 Outline - So you think you can’t sing but you’d like to explore more behind what choir singers have to do to sing in-tune? This exhibit provides you with an opportunity for hands-on control of the tuning of an electronic choir “singer” using an Xbox controller. You can explore basic tuning skills without you having to make any sound yourself.

Singing notes involves the vibration of the vocal cords (or vocal folds) in the voice box (larynx), which has to be regular and at a controlled rate. Tuning a note accurately when singing in a choir involves listening carefully to the notes being sung by everyone else and making small adjustments to the vibration of your vocal cords so that overall, the notes of the chord sound most pleasing together. However, a singer can’t set their vocal folds vibrating at an exact frequency without any variation at all, so sung notes often have an undulation known as vibrato associated with them.

This exhibit consists of four electronic voices set to sing together and you take control of one voice for vocal cord frequency, vibrato rate, vibrato depth, volume and vowel. It offers a three-stage process:

  1. The “singer”
    practice with your single voice to get used to the controls
  2. Chords
    practice tuning your note to ‘fit’ with the other three “singers” for different chords
  3. Karaoke
     control your “singer” and sing along to a well-known song.