Monday, 13 July 2015

Singing pitch

I haven't by any means given up on learning to sing! It's still one of my ambitions.

Oddly enough the subject of 'what kind of singing voice do you have' came up at the Girls' Drinks Night in one of the village pubs last week. To begin with this consisted of just me, Maddy and Jo, and was supposed to last just a couple of hours. But we stayed put for over four hours, getting through rather a lot of wine. Jo and I decided to eat there, which helped to subdue the alcoholic effects, but I dare say we might have been fairly merry at close of play! As regards the singing question, I think it was established that all three of us had rubbish voices, and no vocal control whatever. But I said to Jo, surely you do occasionally have to sing hymns, say at weddings or funerals - or at least thump out Auld Lang Syne at midnight on New Year's Eve? Well, yes...but badly. Hmmm. No woman I've ever come across will claim to have a great singing voice. I shall have to make myself the shining exception!

And of course, with many other things to attend to, I promptly forgot this grand resolution till today. Then it occurred to me to use the microphone on Demelza (my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone) to at least see what notes I could sing if making a proper attempt - by which I mean a sustained steady note made with my own vocal cords (or folds, if you prefer). And if possible to discover what my range was - that is, my lowest pitch and my highest.

To measure the pitch, I'd need to install an app from the Google Play Store, if possible a free one.

Well, after trying out several, I found a free app called Pitch Detector that would not only measure the pitch of the sound I was making, but show me which musical note that corresponded to, and how close I was to the correct sound frequency of that note. Which wasn't very close at all - I wobbled quite a lot. I certainly wasn't pitch-perfect! Interestingly, I had no problems going up to 500Hz - my comfortable upper limit, no doubt - but with careful conscious control I could mange a thin-and-wavering 700Hz. I would without deliberate effort go a lot higher if screaming, of course.

Singing is not the same as speaking. You generally sing at a higher pitch. I could see, through trying out several apps on Demelza, that my speaking pitch varied from 150Hz to 300Hz, with 200Hz as 'typical'. Take all that as approximate, though. I haven't yet found an app that listens to what you say (or sing) and then provides full pitch information, so that, for example, you could learn what the average pitch was, not just the maximum.

I do sing to myself rather a lot at home. I certainly sing along to any music when I have earphones on, but of course this is not a fair test - it's low-volume, and inside my head, and it sounds good to my ears because the skull acts as a resonator and gives a spurious richness to my feeble off-key warblings!

I came across another app that makes me laugh. It's called Maple, and it doesn't measure pitch. It's a music player with a difference. It alters the tempo and/or pitch of any song you have installed on your phone, as you play it. It doesn't have any permanent effect on the song, so you can play it normally again afterwards. So now I can slow down or speed up songs for my own amusement. Or I can alter the pitch, so that male singers sound hilariously female, or female singers sound ludicrously male. Believe me, it's great fun.

1 comment:

  1. Whatever you're on, may I have a bottle of it, please? I'd love to be able to sing up to 500Hz with confidence. I can just about get there (a 'B') for the odd short note, but my comfortable limit is an 'A' (442Hz). As for 700Hz, even ultra-thin and ultra-wavering, forget it!

    Interestingly, though, my normal speech range is higher than yours, averaging out at about 280Hz but often hitting 400 when I emphasise something.

    A most interesting post, Lucy, that complements my own "Sing like a lady" one.


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