I just learned about the delightful speech-to-song illusion

The fact that you can write it as music indicates to me that the tones aren’t illusionary:


They have a recording of other people trying to exactly replicate the phrase, having heard it only once; the effect disappears with at least some of the recordings. But that just means that it might take repeated listening for the tonality to be obvious (and once you notice, you can’t ignore it). Which I think is the case, as listening to the other people’s recordings of the phrase, repeating each person’s version over and over, I hear completely different sets of tones for different people’s readings.

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It certainly does; you just have inherent bias, of course =).

That audio clip makes me want to smack the record player =p.

I found this whilst looking for the “fall has fell” bit so I could loop it ten times to see if this illusion presented itself. Then I noticed the name of that voice, and just gave up on believing anything is real anymore.


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Ooh, I’d forgotten about that one - been ages since I’d listened to it. I did, however, think of It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out immediately when I read the post.


Nick “Pogo” Bertke (I know, I know) notably used the inherent tonal quality of language to devise his songs, listening for snatches or phrases that resembled notes. Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdoHJczLjP4

I first noticed this quality when I was a kid, because I repeat snatches of phrases like a parrot (when I’m alone), often until only the tones make any sense.


Isn’t this just what poetry is? Writing phrases that can have lyrical, rhythmic, even tonal expressions?
Not really so much an illusion than, you know, language.


Perhaps sounds basic to you, but that’s actually a great insight to me @johnherren. Meter, rhythym, pitch, articulation. Any recommended resources for learning how to get better at those in everyday life?


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Beethoven creates a similar illusion through repetition in the first movement of the 7th symphony, at a particular resolution of a progression… At first, it is resolved to a single tone. But this one tone is sustained and repeated for SO LONG that eventually, all by itself (still just one tone), it transforms into a dominant far before we ever hear the notes that become the next actual chord played.

Go ahead and try this at home- just repeat one tone over and over like it’s important. It will end up functioning like a dominant chord that needs to be resolved.

4:00 in this video

Sing, alone or accompanied only by other voices, every day.

It’s at 3:00 here, with the bonus of getting to watch the conductor shake his face

That makes a lot of sense yes. Advice on beginner singing resources?

That makes a lot of sense yes. Advice on beginner singing resources?

Sorry I don’t meant to be cheeky (something something Royal Concertgebouw conductor joke here) but it sounds like you are asking for names of books, videos etc., things to look at or listen to, and inspire thinking about singing?

Fair point MQ. I guess I figure the topic is interesting to me but maybe I only want to spend 5-20 hours with it to see if I like it. As such, not looking for tons of books but rather an aggressive preview, something like that, if you have thoughts…

Nothing wrong with reading. Everybody has an inner child- how about the book “Teaching Kids to Sing” by Ken Phillips?

I think good songwriting consciously or subconsciously takes advantage of this phenomenon. You can write melodies and rhythms that have the emotional impact of the way people speak. You can make a melody sound questioning or angry or sad or joyful. And of course the tempo and rhythm can feel excited or depressed.

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