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May 5, 2009

Behind the chords: the vocal instrument

Daily O'Collegian:

A duck glides through the waters of Theta Pond. On the surface, everything the duck does seems natural; however, to look natural, the duck kicks furiously to travel. Sarah Moyer’s throat is the same way. When the vocal performance senior is singing, a lot is happening below the surface.

Moyer’s Concert Chorale director, Natasa Karaca, said she is aware of the fragility of singing voices. “The voice, in general, is very delicate,” Karaca said. Moyer agreed. “Voice is not a man-made instrument,” she said.

Moyer is a contralto soprano — a style of singing that requires a lot of high, quick-paced singing, she said. She said the OSU Music Department has two contralto sopranos — herself and Laurynn Smith, a vocal performance junior. Moyer also said vocalists have to be more careful than instrumentalists.

Smith said drums are a good example. The head of the drum can be broken many times but it can be replaced, Smith said. “If you ruin your voice, you only get that once,” she said. “You can’t get it back.”

Moyer said vocalists rely on vocal folds that sit in the middle of the throat. The folds are made of thin tissue and muscle, and they flap when high notes are sung. “My voice will probably get damaged faster than a bigger person’s voice will because my vocal folds are about the size of the profile of a dime,” Moyer said.

Mark Lawlor, assistant director of choral activities, said vocal folds are generally “teeny tiny.” Lawlor said when he was studying for his doctorate, he visited a morgue and inspected cadavers and viewed their vocal folds. “I could barely see them,” Lawlor said. “(A lot of sound is) coming from a tiny muscle.”

Moyer said because of her small stature, her vocal folds flap like a hummingbird’s wings. Although her voice is delicate, that doesn’t prohibit her voice from being strong, she said. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at May 5, 2009 12:00 AM

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