Tuning features of Chinese folk song singing: a case study of Hua'er music

Yang, Yang, Welch, Graham, Sundberg, Johan and Himonides, Evangelos (2015) Tuning features of Chinese folk song singing: a case study of Hua'er music. Journal of Voice, 29 4: 426-432. doi:10.1016/j.jvoice.2014.08.013

Author Yang, Yang
Welch, Graham
Sundberg, Johan
Himonides, Evangelos
Title Tuning features of Chinese folk song singing: a case study of Hua'er music
Journal name Journal of Voice   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1873-4588
Publication date 2015-07-01
Year available 2015
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/j.jvoice.2014.08.013
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Volume 29
Issue 4
Start page 426
End page 432
Total pages 7
Place of publication Philadelphia, United States
Publisher Mosby
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The learning and teaching of different singing styles, such as operatic and Chinese folk singing, was often found to be very challenging in professional music education because of the complexity of varied musical properties and vocalizations. By studying the acoustical and musical parameters of the singing voice, this study identified distinctive tuning characteristics of a particular folk music in China—Hua'er music—to inform the ineffective folk singing practices, which were hampered by the neglect of inherent tuning issues in music.

Thirteen unaccompanied folk song examples from four folk singers were digitally audio recorded in a sound studio. Using an analyzing toolkit consisting of Praat, PeakFit, and MS Excel, the fundamental frequencies (F0) of these song examples were extracted into sets of “anchor pitches” mostly used, which were further divided into 253 F0 clusters. The interval structures of anchor pitches within each song were analyzed and then compared across 13 examples providing parameters that indicate the tuning preference of this particular singing style.

The data analyses demonstrated that all singers used a tuning pattern consisting of five major anchor pitches suggesting a nonequal-tempered bias in singing. This partly verified the pentatonic scale proposed in previous empirical research but also argued a potential misunderstanding of the studied folk music scale that failed to take intrinsic tuning issues into consideration.

This study suggests that, in professional music training, any tuning strategy should be considered in terms of the reference pitch and likely tuning systems. Any accompanying instruments would need to be tuned to match the underlying tuning bias.
Keyword Equal temperament
Folk singing
Hua'er music
Just intonation
Pythagorean tuning
Scale tone intervals
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Non-UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: School of Music Publications
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