Dissimilarity and the classification of male singing voices.J Voice. 2008 May; 22(3):290-9.JV
Traditionally, timbre has been defined as that perceptual attribute that differentiates two sounds when pitch and loudness are equal, and thus is a measure of dissimilarity. By such a definition, each voice possesses a set of timbres, and the ability to identify any voice or voice category across different pitch-loudness-vowel combinations must be due to an ability to "link" these timbres by abstracting the "timbre transformation," the manner in which timbre subtly changes across pitch and loudness for a specific voice or voice category. Using stimuli produced across the singing range by singers from different voice categories, this study sought to examine how timbre and pitch interact in the perception of dissimilarity in male singing voices. This study also investigated whether or not listener experience affects the perception of timbre as a function of pitch. The resulting multidimensional scaling (MDS) representations showed that for all stimuli and listeners, dimension 1 correlated with pitch, while dimension 2 correlated with spectral centroid and separated vocal stimuli into the categories baritone and tenor. Dimension 3 appeared highly idiosyncratic depending on the nature of the stimuli and on the experience of the listener. Inexperienced listeners appeared to rely more heavily on pitch in making dissimilarity judgments than did experienced listeners. The resulting MDS representations of dissimilarity across pitch provide a glimpse of the timbre transformation of voice categories across pitch.