Foto: Andrei Budescu

Foto: Andrei Budescu



A brand new research approach in the vocal jazz field and a crossover between acoustics, physiology and jazz.

Elena Mindru’s research aims to outline the characteristics of the jazz voice sound/timbre, to create a knowledgebase of timbre and sound descriptors for both academic and practical purposes. It is focusing on musicians’ perceptions and scientific descriptions of sound, and aim to clarify them from acoustical, physiological and cultural perspectives. The usage of spectrographic software offers the great possibility to “see” the vocal sound and to point out characteristics, hopefully helping to find the answer to the stereotypical question “What makes a jazz voice be recognizable among all other voices?”. These real-time “scans” are called spectrograms and they illustrate the vocal sound with spectrographic and formant analysis. What can be “seen” include vowel positions, fold mass, phonation, presence of false vocal fold constriction, vocal flexibility, safe twanging or effort levels.

The jazz vocal field lacks very much methods, tools, and ways of developing. This innovative research is about offering tools/ways for analyzing, studying and developing the jazz vocal technique. Jazz singers and teachers use their vocabulary intuitively to achieve interpretive goals; they seem to be unaware of its artistic importance and extent. The long-term goal of Elena’s research is to obtain data that increases general understanding of the jazz voice sound and may ultimately be used by physicians, vocal pedagogues and singers. The plan includes the usage of spectrographic analysis software for the same tracks, for a more accurate and objective result. An aesthetic analysis of the researched material will be included as well.

The procedure allows us to examine the recorded literature, observing how great singers produce the beautiful jazz sound on a specified pitch and vowel in a given phrase. Considering these reasons, this research aims to analyze the timbres of five main jazz vocalists throughout history: Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae and Betty Carter, from recordings made between 1950-1970s. All five of them have the jazz sound, unanimously agreed in the jazz community. Even though the voice type differs, my research expects to find common characteristics that can be analyzed with the help of spectrograms.

There will be analyzed voices of contemporary jazz singers as well, in a secondary study. The common elements found will be put out into jazz vocal exercises that will be included in a vocal jazz book.

This is a 4-year academic research that makes music and science interact. It includes two main studies that use the spectrographic software and the electroglottograph and 2 main demonstrative concerts.