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    • Vowel modification in sopranos: COG as an acoustic measure for vowel changes at high pitches

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  • One of the techniques that classical sopranos use to sing a wide range of frequencies beautifully is vowel modification. Due to the nature of harmonics spreading out at high fundamental frequencies, a traditional LPC analysis would not be able to accurately track formant changes in soprano voices at high pitches. In this paper, the possibility of using COG as an acoustic measure for sopranos’ vowel modification is explored. Six sopranos were asked to sing a range of pitches of around two octaves using the vowels [a], [ɛ] and [ɔ], and the COG of the vowels at each F0 was recorded to interpret the vowels’ change in frontness at high pitches. By comparing the COG measurements with the sopranos’ mean F1 in speech, the vowels’ change in height was also inferred and discussed. Results show that the vowel modification process differs by vowel quality. Furthermore, although sopranos must compromise vowel distinctiveness at high pitches, they still try to distinguish their vowels as much as possible in terms of frontness. Vowel modification appears to be conditioned by height before the second passaggio and is conditioned by frontness after the second passaggio. Results provide implications for its affect on vowel intelligibility at high pitches, and further research may explore the effects of vowel modification on vowel perception.
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