A person sings a song using his mouth, but does not produce a tone, just a whisper. (As an example: students talk with other students in class while teacher is conducting the class. Those students do not use a loud voice,but it is possible to communicate.)

In this case, if he sings a higher note will it be called as higher note or is it a lower note since regular voice is not produced?

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    Hey, welcome to the site. I'm not sure if it's clear what you are asking? If you want an objective definition of "higher" or "lower", we normally talk about something called frequency. However, it's not clear what you mean by singing without intentionally producing sound? – endorph Mar 4 '18 at 10:49
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    If no sound is produced, it won't be possible to say if a 'note' is higher or lower. – Tim Mar 4 '18 at 11:14
  • Sudhira - I think I have incorporated the meaning you meant with your edit. Still not sure this makes much sense though... – Doktor Mayhem Mar 4 '18 at 14:04

Singing a note involves vibration of the vocal folds. In fact, many, but not all, of the sounds we make when speaking also involve vibration of the vocal folds. In English (and in most languages) all the vowels are “voiced” as are about half of the consonants; “voiced” is the phonetic term for speech sounds that include vibration of the vocal chords (also called “phonation”). For instance, switch between making a ssssss sound and a zzzzzz sound. If you pay careful attention to the position of your tongue, you should notice that it doesn’t really change position at all, in fact the only difference is whether or not your vocal folds are vibrating. Try going ssssszzzzzzzzssssssszzzzzzz without moving your tongue at all—that feeling is what it’s like to turn phonation on and off, and it’s completely independent of the rest of your vocal tract. The same thing is true if you alternate between ffffffff and vvvvvvv.

Now try changing the pitch and making a melody while making a constant zzzzzzzz. You can “z-hum” any melody you like. Try to do the exact same thing with sssssssss. It isn’t possible, because you can’t change the pitch of an unvoiced consonant without moving your tongue around, which changes the consonant completely. True, there’s a difference between the general sense of frequencies that are present when you change from a ssssss sound to a shhhhhh sound (like telling someone to be quiet), but that isn’t the same phenomenon as phonated pitch used in singing a melody.

OK, so there are actually lots of different kinds of whispering, but in most cases whispering is a method of producing sound that involves no vocal fold vibration at all. That is to say, there is no phonation happening. Try whispering the words “sag” and “zag”. If you pay very careful attention to the sound alone, and ignore your own knowledge of what you’re trying to say, you should hear that there isn’t really any difference between the two sounds. Try it with a friend and see if they can tell which one you’re saying (don’t put the words in a sentence like you would when whispering in class, people are very good at figuring things out from context). Something similar happens with the difference between “fairy” and “very”, they’re essentially the same sound when whispering, because the only major difference in regular speech is phonation. Be careful to use true, quiet whispering, there’s a more forced type of whispering (called breathy voice) which does allow the folds to vibrate.

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is that, when using a true whisper, there’s no such thing as pitch in the same sense we use when talking about singing. Just like you can’t sing a melody when exclusively making an ssssss sound, you can’t sing a melody when whispering—and for the same reason.

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A person sings a song using his mouth, but does not produce a tone, just a whisper.

As you say, whispering isn't generally considered to produce a pitched sound. The sound of a whisper is the sound of random, unpitched noise (caused by air turbulence in the vocal tract and mouth) with a spectrum that is shaped by the resonances of the vocal tract and mouth. The ability to change these resonances is the reason why we're able to still whisper intelligibly.

In this case, if he sings a higher note...

But that's impossible - he can't "sing a higher note", because he's not making a pitched sound at all. However, by changing the resonances of the vocal tract, it might be possible to make a sound with more energy in higher ranges of the frequency spectrum. This still would not be 'singing a higher note', though.

It is possible to produce a pitched sound from air turbulence without using your vocal cords by tuning the resonances of your mouth - that's what whistling is. But it still wouldn't be called "singing".

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Yes, if what he produces can be classed as 'higher' then you are justified in calling it 'higher'. It's difficult to see why you would call it 'lower'.

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