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How do vocal chords work with music - more inside

  1. Jun 30, 2003 #1
    [SOLVED] How do vocal chords work with music - more inside...

    Ok, this is my first post, but I really need to find this out. I hope this is the right place to post it!

    I've resently just finished reading about mathematics in music and harmony-rhythm relationships. These revealed why ceratin tempos work the best for certain keys and sound great.

    So I began to wonder how different vocals effected this. If you listen to punk, alternative, rap, hip-hop, funk, country, etc., you can see that the vocals fit the certain music styles.

    Does anyone know how this works or have a good guess. I guess since I really couldn't find it on a search engine that either I didn't know how to word it, or know one knows (yet).

    It should be a matter of mathematics according to rhythm. I'm not sure, but that is a pretty good guess.

    Thanks for any help you can give!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 2, 2003 #2
    I am trying to learn how to play guitar. While learning, I have run accross some interesting concepts in music and sound. These concepts are very similar to the mathmatics behind electronics. Let me try and refresh my mind on the terms used "harmonic, frequency, scale, key, octive, interval, half step, root, chord, note, harmony, rythem, etc.". I know that they are all related and can parts can be broken down, well here just take a look http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/music/otone.html
  4. Jul 2, 2003 #3
    You say that different vocals "fit" certain types of music. That is merely a perception of yours - the vocals may define the type of music, or you may merely be conditioned to hear them that what so you're mind tells you they "fit". But you're wrong.

    You ask "how this works". But it isn't a proper question, vocals are vocals - nothing fits a type of music and a type of music has no definable and measurably parameters.

    You're trying to pump to much science and mathematics into music - and it isn't there at all.

    Also, I have heard of skimmed these books that claim to show in math why some musical qualities are a certian way. Being that I have 23 years in music under my belt, it's easy for me to see the falsehoods displayed in these texts.

    There is no such relationship at all - the assertions are bias, and mislead the reader who presumably does not have the musical knowledge to identify being mislead.
  5. Jul 2, 2003 #4

    Indeed most of those you mentioned are architectural structures of the others. They have vague similiarites to electronics, but it's really just a perceptual bias to see similiarities in things.
  6. Jul 2, 2003 #5
    I just started so I will be mislead via ignorance. I suppose you may have done the same and are beyond that now? I just want to understand it better. I see your point though, kinda like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  7. Jul 5, 2003 #6
    While mathematics and music do have a relationship, I would agree with Shark that mathematics has little to do with how vocals "fit" any given song.
    Vocals are better described by key, melody and rhythm.
  8. Jul 6, 2003 #7
    Shark, you are completely wrong! Different vocal tones tend to mold theirselves around harmonic pitches. I simply wondered how the vocal chords worked to produce these.

  9. Jul 6, 2003 #8
    Hey, J-man, if you ever observe music in depth, you will most deffinately understand how they are mathmatical. It's hard to explain, but it music DIDN'T relate to mathematics, we wouldn't have MIDI simulations, Panning or EVEN volume! Mathematics seem to be the key to it. Through mathematics, the first Modeling Guitar has been developed. You can check that out at line6.com. I use mathematics for music everytime I play. But I'm sure you get the point by now.

  10. Jul 18, 2003 #9
    I'm not disagreeing that music and math are related, as I said above. I'm just saying that it's not important to the vocals. Use whatever equation you wish, but if the vocals are off-key to the melody, it won't sound "right".
    I could say that if we didn't have electronics we wouldn't have MIDI simulations either, but that doesn't mean that music is dependant upon a transistor.

    Mathematics is a tool to describe/model a phenomonon, nothing more. It can then be used to predict how a machine, guitar, electron, etc. will behave. Certainly I would use math to design an instrument, but not to play it.
    I never use mathematics when playing a piece of music. I'll count, but other than that I concentrate on what note/chord comes next.
  11. Aug 15, 2003 #10
    Reminds me of an interesting thing I read recently - the scales, harmonics etc. have all been discovered or created - whichever you prefer - based on the vibrations of human vocal chords.

    They sound harmonious for us because they're taken from us...
  12. Aug 18, 2003 #11
    Sounding harmonious to us would surely come from the working of the ear/brain not the voice box - the fact that the vibrations set up in the cochlea send electrical signals through to the brain that blend (by addition of waveform) in a way that produces a regular pattern that we appreciate as pleasant and musical - discordant notes on addition do not give a waveform that the brain classes as 'musical'?

    'Musical' I take as 'waveforms fitting together easily' and mathematics certainly can be used to describe waveforms that 'fit' and that is why maths (and electronic systems that analyse mathematically) can be used to assess how 'in tune' sounds are.

    As for vocals 'fitting' some types of music better than others - the basic sounds we make that we use as part of speech can be used as a type of percussion instrument - sharp sounds, soft shooshing sounds etc. - the staccato type rap dialogue works best with hard repetitive constanant sounds and the rapper writes to incorporate that - the words don't matter (and are often not even listened to!) it is the sound of the voice that is used - regimented repetitive sound shapes - like a drum... rhythm tapped out with words....
  13. Aug 18, 2003 #12
    I am going to have to agree somewhat with Cyberphysics. He is correct in stateng that "the basic sounds we make that we use as part of speech can be used as a type of percussion instrument". Vocals and be changed and put to use in many different stlyes. Now, I'm not too sure how good a rapper would be at singing country or vic versa. But music is based heavly on mathmatics.

    Being that I play multiple insterments, my main one being the trumpet, I can understand that a sertain rythm is crucial to playing a certain style. If you tryed to use something like a drag tripolet in a country song, it wouldnt fit. Same as if you tryed to play a jazz trumpet solo in the middle of a rock song.(althou it might be cool if it were in the right key). now, the term vocals can refer to an insterment as well as a persons voice.

    Which brings me to the point of vocals fitting a certain musical style, which contradicts shark. Each vocal insterment(including the human voice) has overtones that can be best suited for a style of music. If you try to get a blues singer to funk, the results, more then likely, wont be good. This isnt only because of what we are used to, but from the insterments overtones. Also, stlye has a major part. If you try to use a marching band to play Bach's Sympony #8, it could be done, but wouldnt lend its self to be the best of quality, because the wrong type of voice is used.
    Musical and math are one in eachother
  14. Aug 19, 2003 #13
    I think it has a lot to do with the shape of the wave - the sound quality - the 'attack and decay' of the wave - having had an old commodore 64 sythesiser I was interested in being able to change the quality of the waveforms and hear the effect.... to see what made a piano a piano and a trumpet a trumpet! The voice itself depends on not only the voice box but also the shape of the mouth/nose cavity, bone structure etc. some voices have naturally pleasant overtones - harmonic resonances that are pleasing others (me included lol!) don't!

    A skilled singer can produce a whole range of sounds - but for some musical forms the very 'roughness' of an untrained voice lends itself well - rough voices seem to convey emotion better than trained ones - because trained voices are so contolled perhaps? Emotion seems to be conveyed by irregularity of sound - breaking....

    It must be a fascinating area to do research in - I find it fires pupils who are studying sound to consider music.

    As for the question of maths 'governing' music - maths is a high form of language - it doesn't govern but rather describes. It is an excellent means of expression for patterns and their properties when blended - therefore it applied to everything that we can detect pattern in - which for physicists is everything!
  15. Aug 19, 2003 #14
    Trying to say that there is math underlying everything about music is way off. Music is very mathematical, yes, but if you had a computer generating music, it doesnt have the same appeal as a human generating the music. Even having a human behind the computer makes a big difference. The left brain influences the right and vice versa but only to a certain extent. Math is the left brain, music is the right. You can't encompass everything that makes music good with math in the same way that you can't say that math can describe everything about a human being. Music is too individual to be broken down into a formula.

    Now that I'm done adding my 2 unrelated cents, I'd have to say I agree with Viper. The tones of the intruments, and the way a persons voice sound have to fit. Sometimes, you can have a sort of 'opposites attract'-like situation. The first band that pops into my head with an example of this is Cradle of Filth. If you've ever heard the song Mannequin you'd know what I mean. There are the raw guitars in the background, but with this angelic chorus singing at the same time. Then on top of all that, the signature vocals that have become synonymous with black metal come in and, to me, this is most appealing. Yeah I'll admit, black metal takes a hell of a lot of getting used to, but this song is a prime example of where the vocals can make or break the song.

    I do disagree with cyberphysics on the point made that 'emotion seems to be conveyed with irregularity of sound'. This is true, but emotional expression isn't limited to the irregularity of sound. Take for example, close to every single love song ever written. Usually they have a fairly consistent sound but convey a fair amount of emotion. On the other end of the spectrum though, the hurt and the anguish and all those emotions are usually emphasized more with the irregular sound or tonality.
  16. Aug 19, 2003 #15
    I have to agree with this. The voice that is created depends heavily on the structure(s) used to make it. It is amazing what a small extra bent can create in a trumpet, or a trombone. Brass instements a especally sensitive to this. As for vocal, the nasel cavity can give a great sound, or it can totally rune a singer. I have a friend who is a great drummer and guitar player, but his voice is way too nasely. The structure and tone can make or break the singer.

    A computer generated voice does not have the structures need to perfectly recreate the overtones used by that voice in real life. There will always be a glitch, or some distortion from the mic, if recorded, or the programmer will just not give a dang and make it close, or semi close to what the real voice is. If there is a human in control of that computer synthisized voice, the quality will become better, because they will be able to fine tune that sound, so it becomes higher quality.
    You could almost say that it is by the power of math, that a human is able to adjust the quality, bass levels, and overal volume of a voice. For everything in music is linked. A cord is multiple overtones built off of eachother in a set pattern. if you want a different cord, change the base note, and the cord changes, following that pattern. If you want a minor cord, you use a different patteren, and bam! you got it.Math. It is an form of depentent variation. now, music is full of these patteres, so it is riddled full of math. Now, i understand that there are so many variables, that it would be nuts to try and figure the whole thing out, but im sure, if you really wanted to, you could find math in every section, every note of music.
  17. Aug 20, 2003 #16
    The appeal is there because it is too perfect - like a sig gen's sinusoidal note sound - ugh! A good musician playing a piece and a competent one give quite a different result because the good one has a 'feeling' for it - something that cannot be taught - this I believe communicates on a metaphysical level and speaks to the soul - that is why we are willing to pay enormous sums to musicians who 'have soul' - same thing with computer generated speak - it sounds too perfect - not enough variation/imperfection. A great singer could convey heartbreak without good lyrics - some pieces without words can reduce some people to tears on first hearing - music conveys emotion.There is more to playing the piano than being techncally perfect - its that slight variation in the tempo and volume of notes in certain parts of the piece that make it individual and interesting to a litener - someone who plays 'correctly' - like a computer is boring - the piece becomes background - even if they follow the musical direction to the letter!

    We are individuals (with souls/spirits - but that's another thread!) and seek to understand and communicate with others - the slight imperfections andindividual variations that come on interpretation of a piece 'switch on' that deep need to understand and empathise with the musician.

    As for mathematical modelling of 'anything' - I'd stand by that - set parameters and an equation can describe it - even if only to say that if x>=y then z<a... maths is just a way of describing one thing in terms of another and those who 'speak math' do it for all sorts of things now... in fact I'd say we (those who tend towards physics) find it a natural way of thinking!... it's just later on at school that we realize that the way we look at the world is mathematical and learn some conventions to express our ideas to others... as small children we just apply our computation and pattern interpretation skills and got called 'clever kids' because we 'understood' but really it is a natural ability to hone in on a pattern and then apply it.

    Those who are not mathematically minded think that there are aspects of life that cannot be described mathematically but I'd say some mathematician could descibe anything in equations - whether you would want to bother is another question. For me it is not a dehumanising thing to do - it is a natural way in which we understand that has been formalized - I couldn't do it - the kids I teach don't even have to apply calculus and I got rusty - but I teach many who go onto Uni and model all sorts of weird things - like choice of packaging related to colour etc.

    Why certain intervals in music are 'minor' and convey sadness we don't know - maths can descibe how - and model - but the why is harder. Patterns - maths.... Why? - theorists... and do we ever really know 'why'... or is it just our understanding within the framework of the latest models?:wink:
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