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Table of contents
  1. Resonance
    1. What is Resonance
    2. Brighter Resonance
      1. Voiced Resonance Stepping
      2. Whispers
      3. Speaking From ‘iii’
      4. Big Dog Small Dog
      5. Voiced Resonance Slide
      6. Kyo Kya
    3. Darker Resonance
      1. Yawn
      2. Macrovowel
    4. Formants
    5. Types of Resonance Modification
      1. Larynx Height
      2. Vowel Shape
      3. OPC - Oropharyngeal closure
      4. OPE - Oropharyngeal expansion
      5. Mouth Space
      6. Twang*
    6. Note on TH and SH Muscles
  2. Acoustic Resonance Details

Resonance

What is Resonance

The space in a container is it’s internal volume, like the air in a pipe. Resonance is how sound is affected by the shape and amount of that space. We hear this quality as low and high resonance. A low resonance sound will seem darker and booming, where as a high resonance sound will be bright or even buzzy. Think of cartoon characters; a giant will have a booming, low resonance voice, whereas a goblin for example might have a high resonance voice.

Low resonance sound:

High resonance sound:

Every space has resonance frequencies. When a sound passes through that space, frequencies in the sound near the resonance frequencies of that space are filtered to be louder. You can hear a resonance frequency when you blow air across the lip of a bottle. The more water (and thus less air) is in the bottle, the higher the whistle sound produced. Your vocal tract is similar to this, though much more complex of course.

However, this is all just context. It’s best not to think about resonance as formants or physical space changes but just as how the voice sounds. We’re much better equipped to change sound color than we are to change physical aspects of our vocal tract.

Here’s a 32 second video explaining resonance:

Resonance Explained in 30 seconds

click to load video

And here’s a more in-depth video on it:

Introduction to how resonance works

click to load video

Brighter Resonance

To raise resonance in general, using a combination of modifications.

Expand / Collapse

Voiced Resonance Stepping

In this exercise we start at a medium or high pitch, then:

  1. speak some words at neutral resonance
  2. speak the same words at low resonance
  3. speak the same words at high resonance

This helps avoid pitch conflation (going up in pitch when changing resonance) and might be more natural and less constricted for some people.

Pitfalls:

  1. changing pitch too much
    • have a pause between each step, don’t slide
    • picture the pitch when you speak

The voiced resonance stepping exercise

click to load video

Whispers

We can just whisper a word over and over, and change how high or low it is. This isn’t pitch, but it’s the equivalent for unvoiced sounds. What we’re changing is resonance, and the level of resonance defines the ‘pitch’ of the whisper (again it’s not pitch, but for most people, this analogy makes sense). We can then - very importantly - make it light and unconstricted. Best practice is to stop at this point and use voiced resonance stepping, but we can also go into speech from this point if that’s not giving results.

Pitfalls:

  1. FVF constriction
    • make the high resonance position light and airy
    • alternatively, avoid going from unvoiced / whisper to voiced directly, instead go to the voiced resonance stepping exercise

Whisper slides for higher resonance range

click to load video

Speaking From ‘iii’

This is a simple exercise to get what’s called a macrovowel. A macrovowel is when we keep the mouth in roughly the same shape as a vowel in order to have that vowel ‘color’ the rest of our speech. A dark vowel would be uuu like in “boot”, and a bright vowel would be either .ae like in “hat” or in this case iii as in “happ_y_”. Although this doesn’t have a huge impact on overall resonance level (as in formants), it does have a quite noticeable impact on brightness.

  1. Say “uuu, speaking from uuu” and keep the mouth shape roughly in the “uuu” shape
  2. Say “iii, speaking from iii”, stress the iii or eee sound and again, keep the mouth in roughly the “iii” shape
  3. Say a word at the end of each phrase to test brightness like “part” or “hi” or “apple”
  4. Apply it to a longer phrase by doing the exercise and then speaking the phrase

Macrovowel with 'iii speaking from iii'

click to load video

Big Dog Small Dog

  1. Imitate a big dog panting
  2. Imitate a smaller and smaller dog, raising the whisper ‘higher’
    • you don’t want a loud sound or an easy to hear sound; it should be very relaxed and unconstricted and free flowing
  3. Make the breath light and airy and free flowing if it isn’t already
    • the more the air is slowed down and restricted, the more constriction there will be
  4. Make a normal voiced “wa” sound (not a whisper) at a set pitch like 200hz / G3 or whatever pitch you want to speak at
    • avoid going too high in pitch, or bring the voice down to your speaking level if you go too high

Pitfalls:

  1. using FVF constriction to get louder breaths
    • make it light and quiet but very airy, don’t reduce airflow to make it quiet, make it very open and unrestricted
  2. raising pitch as well as resonance
    • since they are usually linked, this is common, and it might be more worth using the voiced resonance slides or steps exercise if this happens

Voiced Resonance Slide

A voiced resonance slide can be difficult because we’ll often change pitch as well. A reverse yawn can actually be a fairly good way to get an idea of how this happens. If we leave the pitch to do what it wants and then raise the larynx, pitch will raise too, probably by a lot.

With more practice it is possible to change resonance without affecting pitch, and this can be very useful, since we would not need to stop speaking to redrill resonance.

How to learn it is essentially to first do voiced resonance slides, and drag the pitch down without dropping the resonance, and then when some control is achieved, try and try again to change the resonance without moving pitch. Focus on keeping the pitch consistent.

Kyo Kya

This is mostly for learning OPC

Kyo Kya is a voiced resonance exercise where we start with low resonance on “kyo” and repeat the sound while raising the larynx, then when we can’t add more larynx height, we go to “kya” and try to add OPC. Listen to OPC sounds in order to get an idea. Mimicking cartoon voices that have OPC in them can be a good way to learn the movement.

Darker Resonance

For making the voice darker and lowering resonance.

Expand / Collapse

Yawn

Most people yawn with a dark low resonance and so this can be a good behavioral trigger.

  1. yawn like normal
  2. yawn again, maximising how dark the sound is

Macrovowel

Macrovowel can help change mouth shape and space to get a darker sound. This works by having a dark vowel color the rest of your vowels. The goal is to have the mouth stay in mostly the same shape as the vowel, or even accentuate it.

  1. say “iii, speaking from iii” (like in happy)
    • as usual keep the mouth in the same shape as the iii throughout
  2. say “uhh, speaking from uhh”
    • again make sure the mouth shape stays in the “uhh” shape
  3. try saying other words in order to generalise it

Formants

Formants are frequencies of the voice that are highlighted because of the shape of the vocal tract. If a resonance is a property of the container, or space, then a formant is a property of the sound. There are two formants we really care about.

  1. First, and while it isn’t a formant itself, F0. F0 is your pitch, and it’s the fundamental frequency of your voice at any time.
  2. F1 is the lowest formant by frequency
  3. F2 is the second lowest formant

All resonances (and so, formants) will be raised by shortening the vocal tract, and lowered by extending it.

formants

When we make different vowels, we move our mouth to change these formants so that the space between them is different, and that’s how we can tell what vowel someone is saying. Try saying “hat” and “hoot”. Notice one sounds brighter and one darker. In “hoot” we make the mouth longer by pushing the lips out slightly, and so more space and longer tube = lower resonance.

The following two sounds are at the same pitch (fundamental / F0), but at drastically different resonances. Larynx height isn’t the only thing changing here, but it has the most impact.

Low resonance sound:

High resonance sound:

Types of Resonance Modification

Larynx Height

Since the larynx houses the vocal folds, moving it up shortens the vocal tract and raises resonance. The sound is created further up the vocal tract. The larynx moving is considered the larger modification in resonance, where vowel would be smaller.

Vowel Shape

Vowels change formants. By changing the mouth shape we can access different vowels but also increase or decrease overall resonance by shifting vowels to a higher resonance vowel like /.ae/ as in ‘had’. We don’t need to actually change the whole vowel though, but just get the shape of the vowel to shift slightly toward a brighter one. This is usually called macrovowel.

OPC - Oropharyngeal closure

The back of the mouth, the palatopharyngeal arch can constrict to become a tighter space, which raises resonance. This can also encourage tongue root retraction which contributes to a cartoonish quality (see: Stitch voice).

OPE - Oropharyngeal expansion

Likewise, it can be expanded to lower resonance.

Mouth Space

By changing tension in a few places in the mouth we can achieve a brighter or darker sound. Imagine pulling the corners of the mouth back for an A vowel like in HAD, then keep the inward pressure from the cheeks but remove the expression. This when done properly with enough practice causes a fairly significant shift in brightness. A common way to achieve smaller mouth space is to use macrovowels to get the overall small or large shape and keep that chape and space when speaking.

Large mouth space, dark:

Smaller mouth space, bright:

Twang*

There are many ways to get a “twangy” sound. It can encourage nasality so it’s worth being aware of that. Twang adds upper frequency range information which means a brighter sound. It highlights parts of the voice around 2000-4000hz which is in the F2 range. It has a buzzy quality. This can add some brightness to a voice when added in very small amounts, so that we can go from a dark, soft sound to a bright crisp sound. It’s especially useful when imitating low pitch bright voices, and getting loudness at medium to high pitch without adding vocal weight.

Comparing not twangy meow sound with a twangy one:

Comparing loudness from airflow with loudness from twang:

Note on TH and SH Muscles

As a generalisation, when raising the larynx as a result of raising pitch, only the thyrohyoid muscles raise the larynx. Often when training resonance we use both the thyrohyoid muscles and the stylohyoid muscles. The stylohyoid muscles do add some resonance, but it typically isn’t as much as from the thyrohyoid muscles.

tongue and larynx The stylohyoid runs from top right middle to the hyoid bone, thyrohyoid runs from hyoid to the larynx (thyroid).

If we have a situation in which the resonance cannot go above around 700hz F1 (/.ae/ vowel) then it’s highly likely that only the stylohyoid muscles are being activated. It can be useful then to use high pitch to gain activation of the thyrohyoid muscles and then lower pitch while trying to maintain that configuration.

Acoustic Resonance Details

A more detailed explanation of how resonance works physically can be found here: Acoustic Resonance

standing wave