The Phenomenon of the Voice: A Comparison

Robert E. Dunn


Let me begin with an anecdote. A dear friend, who is a fine instrumentalist, recently recounted to me the following experience. He was working with some instrumentalists and some singers. At one point in the rehearsal, he said something
like, "Let's begin with the musicians and then we'll have the singers ... " Too late, he recognized his mistake and had to spend the rest of the rehearsal trying to make the singers believe that he had meant to say "instrumentalists" rather than "musicians." It is to all of us singers who have had similar experiences that I dedicate this paper.
To paraphrase another, the human singing voice is, in several important respects, (a) like all other musical instruments, (b) like some other musical instruments, and (c) like no other musical instrument on earth (Reimer, 1995). In this paper Iwill compare and contrast the complexities of the voice with other musical instruments from these three vantage points, concentrating on the characteristics that make the singing voice a unique phenomenon.

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