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2021, Volume 22
The Myth of Intonation as an Objective Measure of Singing Quality

AUTHORS: Deirdre D. Michael, Marina Gilman

Reprinted with permission from the Journal of Singing.

ABSTRACT: It is no surprise to those who judge voice competitions that there is often little agreement, even among expert listeners, on many aspects of voice quality. It has been accepted as "the nature of the beast" that much of the assessment of voice quality is highly subjective. Of all the terms that describe the singing voice, "pitch" should be the most objective, as it is the perceptual correlate of fundamental frequency (fo, in this case referring to the frequency of vocal fold vibration), which can be measured objectively. By extension, "intonation" should be a perceptual quality on which singing teachers can agree. This is especially important as pitch accuracy is generally considered by singing teachers, coaches, among others, to be not only the most important factor in judging singing ability and talent, but also the most objective.1 The use of pitch correcting software in popular music recording suggests that pitch can be changed from incorrect to correct by changing the frequency of the sung tone. If pitch can be corrected by a simple click of a mouse, then seemingly intonation is an aspect of voice production that can be either correct or incorrect, and not subject to dispute. If intonation and/or pitch accuracy is a major element in the assessment of singing, then it stands to reason that general agreement, especially among expert listeners, needs to be strong. That is, each listener should perceive a singer's intonation similarly to every other listener, whether as audience members or expert listeners.



To cite this article:

Michael, D. & Gilman, M. (2021). The Myth of Intonation as an Objective Measure of Singing Quality. In Australian Voice (pp.        49-62). (Reprinted from Journal of Singing (2021,5), pp. 591–604).

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