An investigation into the effect of acoustics on vocal strain of Opera singers

PhD Thesis

Okten, G (2016). An investigation into the effect of acoustics on vocal strain of Opera singers. PhD Thesis London South Bank University School of Built Environment and Architecture
AuthorsOkten, G
TypePhD Thesis

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

PublisherLondon South Bank University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
Print01 Oct 2016
Publication process dates
Deposited06 Apr 2018
Publisher's version
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