When you can’t hear the overtones

Songflower Chorale began rehearsal for its spring concert tonight. I joined the rehearsal with a certain mixed apprehension. While loving the music we will be performing, the health issues I have chronicled elsewhere have led to a deterioration of my voice.

It isn’t quite the split of top and bottom that I had before. I have rough notes all the way through, but it usually leaves me more good notes at the bottom than at the top of the range.

But what happened recently that made me take note was something entirely different. I noticed it at a Wednesday night church choir rehearsal. Usually when I get stuffed up my hearing gives me a lot of extra resonance within my head. This time that resonance disappeared. I didn’t hear it in my voice, and didn’t hear it coming from the group around me.

I always wondered how I heard other parts to harmonize with them the way they do. Because I know I don’t consciously think about any other part when I am singing. It turns out that I recognize the overtones between me and them, and that enables me to sing, tune, and even read intervals to a great degree.

Intervals? Yes, this really blew my sight reading skills. I had to concentrate on things that I usually don’t to match the part, and listen closely.

The harmonics are back. I can hear them in my head again, though the overtones aren’t as consistent since my voice itself is having trouble producing some of the notes well.

But it was a real discovery to find out how I actually did things versus how I previously thought I did things.

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