Vocal Demands of Musical Theatre Rehearsals: A Dosimetry Study

Ana F. Zuim, Celia F. Stewart, Ingo R. Titze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To investigate singers’ vocal load by documenting three types of vocal doses (time, cycle, and distance doses) and sound pressure levels during the four phases of rehearsal and how the vocal doses vary between singers across rehearsals in the musical Nine, written by Maury Yeston. Methods/Design: Five student-singers participating in the musical Nine gave informed consent to participate in the study. All five participants were assigned female at birth and female-identifying individuals. They attached a KayPENTAX APM 3300 dosimeter sensor to their lower neck and wore the accelerometer during four three-hour rehearsals throughout the rehearsal process (the music learning phase, the choreography learning phase, the blocking learning phase, and the dress rehearsal) of the musical. The dosimeter records neck vibrations at a rate of 20 samples per second. but it does not record linguistic content. Results: A dosimetric analysis of five student singers identified variability in voice production throughout the rehearsal process. According to the dosimetry findings, singers employed extensive low-frequency voicing below the first passaggio, with belting and mixed vocal strategies as the predominant stylistic choices when performing in Nine. Additionally, the singers used an occasional head voice effect at specific moments. The roles of Carla, Saraghina, La Fleur, and Ensemble One and Two required specific vocal ranges due to the musical score. Conclusions: Researchers have yet to establish a safe baseline vocal dose for singers. The vocal dose is affected by many factors, such as duration of phonation, frequency range, SPL, and styles of vocalism required by the score. Louder and heavier vocalization produces larger distance doses, representing the cumulative load placed on vibrating tissue. The cycle dose, distance dose, and SPL reported in this study varied within and between singers. The phonation density graphs show this variability and the low tessitura required by the score. Time doses ranged from 4% to 7% of rehearsal time; this short dose suggests that the rehearsals provided healthy conditions for the successful rehearsal process with efficient attention to the vocalization of a score that requires heavy vocal styles, including belting. While the rehearsal pace was not alarming, the demands of the score alone may prove to be much greater than the vocal dose reported through the rehearsal. Further studies are needed to establish the overall dose of each Broadway role to serve as parameters for vocal pacing and voice care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Voice
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Belting
  • Contemporary musical theater
  • Dosimetry
  • Musical theater
  • Phonation density graph
  • Singing
  • Vocal dose
  • Vocal load
  • Vocal range

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Speech and Hearing
  • LPN and LVN


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