Sydney speech pathologists study what makes a good radio voice
New research from the University of Sydney Voice Research Laboratory has discovered unique vocal cord vibration patterns might be the secret behind a good radio voice.
The world-first study filmed the vocal folds of 16 male radio performers, including announcers, broadcasters, newsreaders and voice-over artists and found their vocal folds move and close faster than non-broadcasters.
Speech pathologists Dr Cate Madill and Dr Samantha Warhurst from the Sydney Speech Pathology School said the research reveals radio performers close their vocal folds with greater speed and force than non-broadcasters. This may be because they have better control of the tension in their vocal folds while speaking.
“Most radio voices are unique in their depth, warmth or resonance but until recently we have been unable to pinpoint what is happening physically with the vocal folds to achieve these qualities,” Dr Madill said. “This research has uncovered a possible cause for this distinctive sound.”
The study used a high-speed videoendoscopy camera—technology commonly used to diagnose voice disorders—to examine the vocal folds of healthy performers. The camera, inserted via the mouth, was able to capture 4000 frames a second and allowed the researchers to measure the performer’s vocal folds vibrating at a speed greater than 90 times per second.
“When you speak, a stream of air comes up from your lungs to the trachea and larynx and makes your vocal folds vibrate, open and close. The vibration pattern of the vocal folds when the air comes out of your mouth determines how your voice sounds,” Dr Madill said.
“While the control group had equal opening and closing times, the male broadcasters closed their vocal cords much more quickly.”
Dr Samantha Warhurst said the study, published in PLOS ONE, follows on from previous work by the University of Sydney Voice Research Laboratory which explored the acoustic differences between radio voices working across public and commercial stations.
“Unlike singers and other performers who use visual cues, radio broadcasters are one of the only professions which rely entirely on their voice to communicate their message,” Dr Warhurst said.
“This research gives us some significant clues on how a good voice for radio might be trained.”
University of Sydney Speech Pathology School
Speech pathology at the University of Sydney has a long and proud history of producing high-quality graduates who go on to be expert clinicians, leaders of the profession and international researchers in communication sciences and disorders. Sydney’s speech pathology discipline is the largest speech pathology department in the Australian state of New South Wales and one of the largest in Australia.
In common with other departments at the University of Sydney, the discipline of speech pathology promotes students’ development of generic communication and teamwork skills, as well as discipline-specific knowledge and skills. The course is designed to promote self-direction and encourages the graduates to have a sense of their own individuality and creativity.
The university offers a two-year, graduate-entry Master of Speech Language Pathology program. It is intended for students coming from an undergraduate degree in any field, who wish to gain the requirements to become a speech pathologist.
Program: Master of Speech Language Pathology
Location: Sydney, New South Wales
Semester intake: March
Duration: 2 years