We could represent any classical music using human voice. Why?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Carl Witthoft, Richard, Peter, David Bowling, Tim H Jul 16 at 7:35

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  • Don't believe the premise is true. – Tim Jul 14 at 10:50
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    I can do a fair cornet or flugel horn - think Hovis advert - but piano... not so well ;) – Tetsujin Jul 14 at 11:01
  • Well, I expect that most pieces could be rearranged for a chorus to an extent that they would be recognisable. However, in pretty much every case, it would clearly be different. Barber rearranged his famous Adagio for Strings for voices as Agnus Dei. It's another great piece of music. It's clearly related but also clearly not the same piece. – badjohn Jul 14 at 11:05
  • Vladimir - I've tweaked the title to be (what I think is) closer to what you ask in the question body - does it seem OK? – topo Reinstate Monica Jul 14 at 11:16
  • Vote to close because premise is untrue. – Carl Witthoft Jul 15 at 14:08

It's true that most instruments that can produce identifiable pitched notes create sounds that are made up of partials following the harmonic series. The human Larynx can also create this kind of sound, so it has the basic 'ingredients' to sound like many musical instruments.

Furthermore, the resonant cavities of the mouth act as a very powerful filter, allowing that harmonic series to be shaped to sound more like the response of particular instruments.

The way the amplitude of the voice is breath controlled also allows the envelope of the sounds the voice makes to be varied in a very flexible way.

The tongue and teeth can also be used to shape noise from the air moving through the mouth into percussive sounds.


There are lots of limitations in the human voice too:

  • The basic spectrum of sound created by the voicebox isn't an exact match for many instruments.
  • There are limits in how low and high the voice can reach
  • the mouth can't really make very percussive-sounding envelopes for pitched sounds - (it's hard for a voice to sound like a xylophone)
  • there are limits to the volume of the sound that the human voice can produce

So while the statement "We could represent any classical music using human voice" isn't unfair, it would only be a representation, not an exact match.

  • Maybe spawns questions like which instruments can/cannot be replicated using the human voice? – Tim Jul 14 at 11:40
  • @Tim the accordion :-) – Carl Witthoft Jul 15 at 14:09

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