Singing – like you’ve never seen it before!

So the blog is back after a bit of a break.

Scientists at the Freiburg Institute for Musician’s Medicine captured footage of a baritone singer Michael Volle singing an aria from Richard Wagner’s 1845 opera Tannhäuser. What makes this footage special though is that it was shot in and MRI scanner in real-time. It’s allowing scientists to learn more about how the vocal tract works.

Our voice is the sound that comes from air passing over our vocal folds. It passes through the vocal tract resonator, which shapes it acoustically and gives it pitch. These sounds can then be shaped into recognizable speech by articulators like the tongue and lips.

Opera singers (and indeed all singers) ideally need to eliminate anything that may interfere with the voice. Tense muscles in the neck and shoulders, and even in the arms and legs use oxygen, and leads to constricted breathing and poor sound quality. Singers require a loose, agile tongue and a relaxed jaw to reach their intended pitch. This means the support from the sound should come from the diaphragm (a point which Sally makes a lot!)

If you watch the video you can also see how he drops his tongue at the back, opening up his throat and increasing the space there, something else which Sally talkes about in rehearsals.

Watch MRI footage of a world-class opera singer performing

It’s pretty cool to be able to see exactly what should be going on inside our heads as we sing don’t you think.

Thanks Clare for the topic suggestion.