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Aug
29th

Tim Storms Sets Record for World’s Lowest Singing

Categories: Cool Music Finds, Voice |

Tim Storms
Meet Tim Storms, a man with an earth-shakingly low voice. How low, you ask? So low, he can hit a note you can’t even come close to hearing. On March 30, 2012, he reclaimed a previous Guinness World Record for lowest vocal note produced by a male when he sang a G -7 (as if note values are even relevant when they’re that low), which is 8 octaves below the lowest G on the piano.

As a quick refresher, our perception of pitch corresponds to a sound wave’s frequency, measured in Hertz, or cycles per second. It’s not quite as simple as this, but suffice it to say, the lower the pitch, the lower the frequency. Humans can hear down to about 20 Hz. Storms managed a whopping, sub-audible 0.189 Hz. That seems completely unbelievable to me, but the Guinness World Record gods say it is so, because they employed the help of a “low-frequency microphone, precision sound analyser, and laptop for post analysis.” Let me spend the rest of this blog entry putting such a low-frequency into perspective for you.

If I am correct, he is hitting a frequency of about 1 cycle per 5 seconds. In air, that’s a wavelength of 5950 feet. NPR reports that elephants communicate at a puny 10 to 20 Hz or cycles per second. The closest sonic phenomenon I could find to Tim Storms’s sub-audible humming is a class of infrasonic waves called microbaroms, found in a particular type of marine storm. Now, why am I not surprised?

Out of curiosity, I looked up the lowest “sound” in the universe, mostly so I could make a funny chart, and it comes from pressure oscillations from a black hole. the frequency of the oscillations correspond to a B-flat, 57 octaves lower than middle C. What?

8 Comments

  1. Comment by: Sami Al-Khalili
    Posted on: 14th Jul 2016Reply

    Does he teach vocal lessons?

    • Comment by: Molly Webb
      Posted on: 18th Jul 2016Reply

      Hi Sami, not that I know of. I did a quick search to see if I could find anything, but he’s usually advertised as a voice actor and singer. It’s possible that he teaches privately and doesn’t advertise it though.

  2. Comment by: Oblomov
    Posted on: 16th Oct 2016Reply

    I heard lower voice, at least from how his speaking sounds. He sounds like a normal bass baritone voice, to me, as it sounds like he’s talking in the lower part of his range.
    His lows are “vocal fry’s” technically not the “modal” register you say we should sing. But I’m not against “non modal” registers because some use the fry very well and even speak with fry with a consistent volume.
    Registers, to me are basically various level of cord closure, you use less of it in high notes to avoid hyperkinetism of vocal folds and more on low notes to maximis resistance. The rest is resonance, support and pronunciation. More important, though, musical sensitivity, sense or harmony and intonation :).

    • Comment by: Molly Webb
      Posted on: 20th Oct 2016Reply

      Oblomov, it’s not necessarily Tim’s speaking voice that’s the lowest out there (in fact, it’s not that low); it’s how low he’s able to carry his frequency. I agree that his lows are more of a fry. It’s not that you can’t incorporate vocal fry into singing and speaking–it’s just that the vast majority of singing is in a modal register. I agree that degree of cord closure is part of how we perceive registers. There’s a lot that goes into it, including the amount we engage our thyroarytenoid muscle, how thick vs. thin we make our cords, etc. Thanks again for all the thoughtful comments and questions!

  3. Comment by: Oblomov
    Posted on: 26th Feb 2017Reply

    One curiousity, not sure it’s my intuition or true, based on what I learned in classical training. I see registers as relative so hardly neatly separated as there are as discussed above a continuous level of close quotient, sometimes resulting from the same level of fold closure at different pitches.
    So to resume.
    Close quotient, how long the fold stay open during a cicle – in percentage.
    Fold closure, the extent to which the folds are pressed one into each other, extent of contact surface.
    In classical, it’s taught to open gradually, aka thinning, more toward passaggio, of course. So registers are blended with no break. The support follows it biunivocally.
    I agree classical rules are not mandatory in other styles, especially when it comes to resonance. Less constance, much more variance on different modern style, even inside the same style, thinning earlier or later. More dark to light excursions or, more frequently, keeping it obstinately bright :).

    Tl dr-
    You say thyroaritenoid and cricoid determine how belty vs cricothyroid how heady our sound are, but I see more relativity to this, based on pitch and resonance. Is it true that thinner folds and less closure can acquire more power and bit up there with the tension and resistance associated to high notes?
    Yeah in general thicker folds are more belty, but the higher you sing the less thickness and closure is needed to sound belty. That’s why many tenors in classical, find it difficult to control volume and do a mezza voce – diminuendo on high A to C, they are probably already thinned to an extent that used half an octave lower would sound quite soft.
    For women is not as difficult, in classical, because they don’t have the taboo of the mechanism change, even sopranos sing in M2 above B4, most of the time. While in broadway M1 is taken up to at least E5, usually.

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