Vocal tract area functions and formant frequencies in opera tenors' modal and falsetto registers

Matthias Echternach*, Johan Sundberg, Tobias Baumann, Michael Markl, Bernhard Richter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


According to recent model investigations, vocal tract resonance is relevant to vocal registers. However, no experimental corroboration of this claim has been published so far. In the present investigation, ten professional tenors' vocal tract configurations were analyzed using MRI volumetry. All subjects produced a sustained tone on the pitch F4 (349 Hz) on the vowel /a/ (1) in modal and (2) in falsetto register. The area functions were estimated from the MRI data and their associated formant frequencies were calculated. In a second condition the same subjects repeated the same tasks in a sound treated room and their formant frequencies were estimated by means of inverse filtering. In both recordings similar formant frequencies were observed. Vocal tract shapes differed between modal and falsetto register. In modal as compared to falsetto the lip opening and the oral cavity were wider and the first formant frequency was higher. In this sense the presented results are in agreement with the claim that the formant frequencies differ between registers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3955-3963
Number of pages9
Journaljournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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