Voice and Sound Analysis Laboratory (VSAL) & Center

Voice and Sound Analysis Lab Equipment

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Come and explore how you make and experience music.

  • What is sound? 
  • How do we perceive sound?
  • How can sound travel in air, through computers, and over the internet?
  • How does my instrument create meaning with sound?
  • How does my body play my instrument?

Musicians call on their bodies to create sound and meaning through performance. While much of this process is ephemeral, we have the ability to explore how music and music performance is embodied and experienced. The Voice and Sound Analysis Laboratory & Center offers students at NEC the chance to investigate the how and what of sound in a supportive, hands-on environment. This can take the form of simply exploring the sound of your instrument with real time spectrography, or students may immerse themselves in more advanced qualitative and quantitative mentored research projects. Between these extremes lie countless applications to deepen and bring detail to your understanding of the world of sound. We welcome all NEC musicians regardless of area of study or musical tradition.

What can we do? The VSAL Center offers tools and technology to:

  • Playfully explore the sound of your voice or instrument through advanced, real-time, acoustic analysis
  • Prepare high quality spectrograms for use in your theoretical analysis papers, allowing for quantitative and qualitative comparisons of your performances
  • Explore airflow and respiration
  • Explore timbre as an expressive device
  • Explore perception and psychoacoustics
  • Explore vibrotactile sensation while making or experiencing music
  • Explore gaze and other ocular measures
  • Explore additional biometrics, especially of the voice (e.g., airflow, subglottal pressure, vocal fold contact patterns)
  • Explore real-time, low latency audio and video transmission and collaboration over the commercial internet
  • Support more serious research for either special projects or academic classes

For more information contact: kayla.gautereaux@necmusic.edu or ian.howell@necmusic.edu

Or sign up for an appointment in the VSAL Center (open to all students and faculty)

Learn more about the NEC Vocal Pedagogy Program

Vocal Pedagogy Class

Vision & Mission

The primary mission of the NEC Voice and Sound Analysis Laboratory (VSAL) is to unlock the imaginations of music students, offer them a path to meaningfully explore measurable aspects of their art form, and to feed this work back into their applied practice. Our secondary mission is to carry out and publish research to spread these ideas beyond the NEC community. We support these efforts with a variety of educational experiences including classroom lectures, guided research and instrumentation training, and public presentations of original work. Our core belief is that musicians have a unique perspective within society, perceive unique problems, and present unique solutions.

About the VSAL

Founded by Dr. Ian Howell in 2013, the NEC Voice and Sound Analysis Laboratory is one of the best equipped acoustic, perceptual, and biometric labs housed in a North American music school. Originally designed to bring to life the seminal acoustic research studies of D.G. Miller, Sundberg, and Titze for students enrolled in voice pedagogy classes, the VSAL has steadily grown in scope and prestige. This growth has always been driven by the interests of both conservatory faculty and students, and our current agenda and resources reflect this. We study the practice of high level music making, we seek to make the abstract real, and we learn by doing. 

Our current and graduated students may be found actively performing, presenting at international conferences, pursuing advanced performance and research degrees, and teaching at the community music school and college levels.

Areas of Research Interest

The VSAL empowers conservatory students to bring rigor to the exploration of subjects relevant to their own interests. As such, our main areas of research center on issues that arise within a music school environment. Broadly speaking our agenda includes the study of:

  • perception (both auditory and vibrotactile)
  • psychoacoustics and functional listening
  • voice acoustics and registration (especially mix, whistle, and subharmonic registers)
  • the transient theory of voice production
  • voice and gender
  • biometrics of airflow, air pressure, and glottal contact
  • voice and hearing dose
  • computer analysis of complex voicing phenomena like vibrato, extreme vocal effects, and voice onset 

In recent years we have also expanded into explorations of absolute pitch, biometrics of respiration, motor learning theory in individual and group settings, pitch and periodicity, attention, and gaze. In response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, the VSAL has carried out extensive theoretical and practical work to enable real time music performance collaboration online.

Community Outreach/Education Programs

2018-2021 Acoustic Vocal Pedagogy Workshop
2020  Online Teaching Technology Online Course
2020-2021 Acoustic Vocal Pedagogy Online Course
2021  SoundJack Bootcamp 

Laboratory Equipment & Software


Earthworks m23 Omni directional reference microphones
Countryman Omni directional headset mic

Audio Signal Chain
Earthworks ZDT 1022 Microphone Preamplifiers
RME Fireface and Babyface Microphone Preamplifiers and AD/DA Convertors
Audient iD44 Microphone Preamplifiers and AD/DA Convertors
Genelec 8330 studio monitors
Reed SD-4023 Sound Level Meter/Data Logger
Reed R8090 Sound Level Calibrator

Biometrics Hardware
Glottal Enterprises MS-110 Aerodynamic Voice Analysis System with OroNasal 2 chamber split airflow masks
Glottal Enterprises Electroglottograph
Etymotic ER 200DW8 Personal Noise Dosimeter with Data Logging
RespTrack Respiration Tracking System
Gazepoint GP3 HD Eye Tracking System

Windows, MacOS, and Linux computers
Raspberry Pi Tinker/Maker Lab for use with Low Latency Audio Platforms


VoceVista Video Pro (Site license)
VoceVista 3.3 and 3.4.3
Phonanium Clinical Plugin Suite for Praat 
Glottal Enterprises Aeroview
Glottal Enterprises Dualview
Glottal Enterprises Waveview
Glottal Enterprises Phase Comp
Tolvan Suite (Madde, RTSect, Sopran, etc)
Room EQ Wizard
Visible Body Human Anatomy Atlas
Apple Apps for Education (Logic Pro X, Final Cut Pro, etc)
JackTrip Virtual Studio

Faculty & Student Publications, Presentations, and Awards/Grants

Faculty and student research has been presented at conferences hosted by the Voice Foundation, the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Pan American Vocology Association, the Society for Music Perception and Cognition, the North Carolina Music Educator Association, and Harvard’s ArtTechPsyche.

Dr. Howell has been an invited speaker for the NATS Chat series, NYSTA, and the Peabody Lunch and Learn webinar series; has guest lectured at NYU, Boston Conservatory, CU Boulder, and Mannes; and has appeared on the VocalFri and Vocal Scope podcasts. His 2020-2021 work on the application of low latency audio technology has appeared in WBUR, Forbes, Choral Journal (ACDA), Broadway World, and Musical America. He is published in the Journal of Voice, the Journal of Singing, Classical Singer, and VOICEPrints. He has presented original scholarship on the special psychoacoustics of the singing voice at the Voice Foundation, the NATS National Conference, the PAVA International Symposium, and the Society for Music Cognition and Perception. In addition to his work at NEC, he is on faculty of the Acoustic Vocal Pedagogy Workshop, the Acoustic Vocal Pedagogy Online Course, the VSAL SoundJack Bootcamp, and the Boston Conservatory Vocal Pedagogy Professional Workshop. 

Kayla Gautereaux presented at the 2020 NATS Conference on a novel approach to the spectral analysis of the singing voice using wavelet decomposition, exploring the detailed time and pressure domains within a pitch period. She serves as a research assistant for the automatic singing classifier on the ambulatory voice monitoring study at the MGH Voice Center. She has appeared on the VocalFri podcast and guest lectures on the acoustics and psychoacoustics of the singing voice. Kayla Gautereaux is on faculty and administrates the Acoustic Vocal Pedagogy Workshop, Acoustic Vocal Pedagogy Online Course, and the VSAL SoundJack Bootcamp. 


Soren Austenfeld (MM ‘20) received the Best Poster Award at the National Association of Teachers of Singing 2020 Virtual Conference for their poster “Acoustic Registration for Transgender Singers on Testosterone.” 

Theodora Nestorova (MM ’21) received the Best Student Research Project Award at the 2020 PAVA Symposium for her project, “Does Vibrato Define Genre or Vice Versa?: A Novel Approach to Stylistic Vibrato Derivative Analysis.”

Emily Siar (DMA ant. ’21) was selected as a 2021 NATS Intern and a 2019 Presser Foundation Grant Recipient.

Ian Howell (DMA ’16) was the recipient of a 2020 Mattina R. Proctor Foundation Grant to explore low latency music collaboration technology.  He was also the recipient of a 2021 American Academy of Teachers of Singer Award for Covid-19 Response. Howell’s, “…work with low-latency platforms and associated technology, and broad dissemination of instruction in its use, has permitted widespread applications that have allowed us to teach and perform successfully in remote settings. These innovations will have a lasting impact on our profession.” Inaugural AATS Awards for COVID-19 Response have also been presented to ENO Breathe for creating an innovative and compassionate effort between the arts and medicine to help relieve the suffering of individuals experiencing long term post-COVID respiratory and anxiety problems, and to International Coalition Performing Arts Aerosol Study for their research on aerosol transmission to inform safety protocol measures for music performance practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peer Reviewed Publications

Howell, Ian. “Book Review: Karen Tillotson Bauer: The Essentials of Beautiful Singing: A Three-Step Kinesthetic Approach.” VoicePrints: Journal of the New York Singing Teacher’s Association (March-April, 2015). 

Howell, Ian. “Necessary roughness in the voice pedagogy classroom: The special psychoacoustics of the singing voice.” VoicePrints: Journal of the New York Singing Teacher’s Association (May-June, 2017).

Howell, Ian. “Stand on the shoulders of giants: An appeal to new media voice educators.” Journal of Singing 74/3 (January/February, 2018). 

Naunheim, M. R., Bock, J., Doucette, P. A., Hoch, M., Howell, I., Johns, M. M., Johnson, A. M., Krishna, P., Meyer, D., Milstein, C. F., Nix, J., Pitman, M. J., Robinson-Martin, T., Rubin, A. D., Sataloff, R. T., Sims, H. S., Titze, I. R., & Carroll, T. L. “Safer Singing During the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic: What We Know and What We Don't.” Journal of Voice: official journal of the Voice Foundation, S0892-1997(20)30245-9 (2020). Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2020.06.028

Recent Non-Peer Reviewed Publications

Howell, Ian, Kayla Gautereaux, Joshua Glasner, Nicholas Perna, Chadley Ballantyne, Theodora Nestorova. “Preliminary Report: Comparing the Audio Quality of Classical Music Lessons Over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, VoiceLessonsApp, and Apple FaceTime.” Published March 25, 2020. https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/preliminary-report-testing-video-conferencing-platforms 

Howell, Ian. “SoundJack: The Unofficial Guide to Low Latency Online Music Making.”  Last modified June 16, 2020. https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/soundjack- real-time-online-music

__________. “Best Practices for High Quality, Technology-Enabled, Applied Music  Teaching.” Last modified June 28, 2020.    https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/technology-enabled-music-lessons

Howell, Ian, and Brian Manternach. “Mic Check: What Every Singer Should Know.” www.csmusic.net, June 23, 2020. https://www.csmusic.net/content/articles/mic-check/

__________. “The New Digital Regionalism (an essay).” Last modified August 17, 2020.  https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/the-new-digital-regionalism

__________. “A Real Time, Distributed Performance Class Using SoundJack and Zoom.” Last modified October 26, 2020. https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/distributed-performance-class

__________. “SoundJack Comprehensive User Guide.” Last modified November 5,  2020. https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/soundjack-comprehensive-user- guide

__________. “Multitrack Workflows in SoundJack.” Last modified November 25, 2020.   https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/multitrack-workflows-with-soundjack

__________. “What Happens next? (An Essay).” Last modified November 26, 2020.  https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/what-happens-next

__________. “What We Did and How We Did It.” Last modified November 27, 2020.  https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/what-we-did-and-how-we-did-it-  soundjack-examples

Howell, Ian and Kayla Gautereaux. “NEC 2021 SoundJack Bootcamp.” Last modified  February 16, 2021. https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/soundjack-bootcamp

Howell, Ian. “A Musician’s Guide to Navigating the Next Pandemic (an essay).” Last modified March 8, 2021. https://www.ianhowellcountertenor.com/a-musicians-guide-to-the-next-pandemic-an-essay

Conference Proceedings

Howell, Ian (2015) . “Parsing the Spectral Envelope: A Proposed Model for Integrating Psychoacoustic Concepts into Formant Theory.” Oral Presentation at the Pan-American Vocology Association (PAVA) Symposium, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC

Howell, Ian (2016). “Do We Hallucinate Vowels? New Models for Teaching Formants, with Practical Implications for the Female Secondo Passaggio.” Breakout Session at the National Association of Teachers of Singing National Conference, Chicago, IL

Howell, Ian (2017). “Local Spectral Coherence.” Oral Presentation at the Pan-American Vocology Association (PAVA) Symposium, Phoenix, AZ

Howell, Ian (2017). “The Special Psychoacoustics of the Singing Voice.” ArtTechPsyche III, The Digital Futures Consortium at Harvard University, Boston, MA

Howell, Ian (2017). “In Search of the Soprano Singer’s Formant: A Perceptual Approach.” Oral Presentation at the Society for Music Perception and Cognition Conference, University of California San Diego.

Howell, Ian (2018). “Redefining the Singer’s Formant by Perceptual Qualities: Fs-like Peaks in Sopranos Singing Above the Pitch C5.” Oral Presentation at the Voice Foundation, Philadelphia, PA.

Howell, Ian (2020). “Necessary Roughness in Voice Pedagogy: The Special Psychoacoustics of the Singing Voice.” Breakout Session at the National Association of Teachers of Singing National Conference, Las Vegas, NV.

Kelly, Michaela (2020). “Best Practices on Practice.” North Carolina Music Educators Association (NCMEA)

Gautereaux, Kayla, Jason Trees, Ian Howell (2020). “Peering Inside the Period: Wavelet Decomposition as an Alternative to the Fourier Transform.” Poster Presentation at the NATS National Virtual Conference

Austenfeld, Soren (2020). “Acoustic Registration for Transgender Singers on Testosterone.” Poster Presentation at the NATS National Virtual Conference

Nestorova, Theodora (2021). “Does Vibrato Define Genre or Vice Versa?: A Novel Approach to Stylistic Vibrato Derivative Analysis.” Pan American Vocology Association Virtual Symposium

Nestorova, Theodora (2021). “Does Vibrato Define Genre or Vice Versa?: Pilot Study in Acoustical Analysis of Vibrato by Style” Poster Presentation at the National Opera Association Conference

Kelly, Michaela (2021). “A Comparison of Blocked and Randomized Practice Methods: A Pilot Study.” Pan American Vocology Association Virtual Symposium

Siar, Emily (2021). “Examining Student Attitude Toward and Experiences of Voice Impairment: A Study of Classical Voice Majors.” Pan American Vocology Association Virtual Symposium

Asano, Chihiro (2021). “Japanese Female Voice in Anime.” Pan American Vocology Association Virtual Symposium

Stant, Lizzy (2021).“Vibrato Rate and Extend, CPPS, and Fundamental Speaking Frequency in Aging Singers.” Pan American Vocology Association Virtual Symposium

Guthridge, Lauren (2021). “Ocular Measurements and Locus of Attention in Solo Voice Instruction.” Pan American Vocology Association Virtual Symposium

Nestorova, Theodora (2021). “Does Vibrato Define Genre or Vice Versa?: A Novel Approach to Stylistic Vibrato Derivative Analysis.” Pan American Vocology Association Virtual Symposium

Henderson, Allen, Lynn Helding, Ian Howell, Kari Ragan, & Amelia Rollings Bigler (2021). “From Undergrad to D.M.A.: The Path to Informed Voice Pedagogy.” Panel Discussion at the Voice Foundation, Philadelphia, PA