Printer Friendly

Pitch hitter.

The reception was slamming. The newlyweds had just completed their first dance. Now it was time for the deejay to drop a dime.

"Here we go," he said as he cued up a record. "This is from the voice of one extraordinary canary, Miss Mariah Carey, and she calls it 'Emotions.'"

First came the funky bass, then the lovely soprano voice. Within seconds the dance floor was packed.

"Did you hear the note that child just hit?" my partner asked as she twirled around. "She sings like an angel."

"That's Mariah Carey," I responded.

"Well, baby, she's got a voice that's made in heaven."

I smiled. Had anyone other than my 70-year-old cousin Mollie made this comment, I simply would have agreed. But I couldn't let this slide. You see, Cousin Mollie only listens to opera singers like Luciano Pavarotti, Kathleen Battle, and that crew. But here she was giving it up for Mariah.

Obviously Cousin Mollie was reading my mind.

"Boy, don't look at me like that," Mollie said as she snapped her fingers. "That girl can saang!"

Cousin Mollie isn't the only person who thinks so. In 1990 Carey took the world by storm with her debut album. Now, three albums later, the 22-year-old soprano gets maximum respect from critics and music lovers alike. Her most valuable assets: a soulful delivery and an incredible four-and-a-half-octave range. Carey can hit notes so low they make you think of a tugboat horn, notes as high as the high note of a penny whistle, plus every note in between.

The soul comes from Mariah's feelings about her music. The range comes from her ability to do things with her vocal cords that mere mortals just can't.

STRIKE A CORD

Here's what we do have in common with Mariah: Whenever we sing--or speak--the sound comes from our vocal cords, leathery folds of tissue inside the voice box, or larynx, in the throat. As air passes up through the opening between the cords, they ripple, or vibrate, like flags flapping in the breeze. Those vibes produce the sound.

You can't usually feel it when it happens, but when you change the pitch--highness or lowness--of your voice, what you're doing is tightening or loosening your vocal cords. The tighter you stretch 'em, the faster they'll vibrate. The faster they vibrate--the higher the frequency of the vibes--the higher the note.

Most singers are limited to a range of an octave or two--maybe 16 consecutive whole notes, max. But through years of training--for example, singing scales every day for 20 minutes at a stretch since the time she could walk--Carey has gradually increased the flexibility of her vocal cords.

Now she can scale octave after octave, starting with that bass note, where her vocal cords are vibrating at a frequency of 220 hertz (220 vibes/sec), and climbing all the way to those incredible high notes in "Emotions." On those notes, her vocal cords are stretched so tightly that they vibrate at something like 3,500Hz--nearly the highest note on a piano!

POWER-BREATHING

Still, high notes aren't everything. Carey has also had training to increase the power behind her sounds. The trick here: proper breathing technique (from the gut, not the chest), says Iralene Swain, a voice coach. The more "wind" you force across your vocal cords, the stronger the vibrations will be and the louder the sounds you can produce.

"So if I go in for the same kind of lessons," you ask, "will I end up singing like Mariah?"

"Well, every person has his or her own unique voice," says Swain. But you can increase the range and power of yours. Who knows? Maybe someday you'll be hitting the notes that carry Cousin Mollie onto the dance floor.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Mariah Carey
Author:Jones, K. Maurice
Publication:Science World
Date:Feb 26, 1993
Words:624
Previous Article:Music to your ears.
Next Article:Ladies and gentlemen ... the elephants.
Topics:


Related Articles
REVIEW; CAREY'S VOICE VIES WITH VIDEO.
CAREY INKS $80 MILLION ALBUM DEAL.
NORTHRIDGE STRUCK DOWN BY SHIBILO : PEPPERDINE 8, CSUN 4.
MARIAH CAREY ISSUES CALL TO MILITARY FOR BASE VIDEO.
POP DIVA READY FOR A STRETCH; MARIAH CAREY, WITH A NEW ALBUM `BUTTERFLY' ON THE RISE, WANTS TO TRY ACTING.
`M'-NAMED WOMEN SCORE IN BILLBOARD AWARDS.
CAREY TOP NOMINEE FOR AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS.
SOUND CHECK.
NO END TO CAREY'S CHARMS.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters