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Voicing

A term that has several applications in the music and audio world. When applied to pianos, voicing refers to the methods of obtaining a particular quality of tone from an individual instrument. This function is performed so that the tone of each note is uniform throughout. The adjustment involves the hardening or softening of the felt on the hammers that strike the strings, often achieved by filing down worn felts or replacing them entirely. If you encounter a piano on which certain notes seem “brighter” or “duller” than the others, the chances are good that it needs to be voiced. Voicing is generally done at least every few years to revitalize worn felts.

In musical arranging and orchestration, voicing is the process of assigning different notes of a chord or melody to different combinations of instruments in the ensemble. This allows each note to have its own timbre and dynamic level, or “weight,” in the overall sound. For example, In a C Major triad (C-E-G) having the “E” played by trombone, cello and bass clarinet will produce a distinctly different timbre than assigning it to French horn, trumpet, first violin and piccolo.

In synthesizers, “voicing” is an industry term for applying the architecture of a particular synth to create sounds (presets) that reflect that synth’s sonic capabilities. This skill requires a unique combination of technological and musical knowledge. There have been a few “stars” in the synth voicing business, among them Joe Ierardi and Jennifer Hruska (responsible for many signature Kurzweil K2xxx sounds), Dave Smith (besides creating the legendary Sequential Circuits synthesizers he was responsible for voicing the Korg Wavestation, an update of his Prophet-VS) and Eric Persing (a chief sound designer for Roland as well as creator of dozens of independent sound libraries).

Finally, voicing is sometimes used to describe the equalization and balancing of a speaker/amplifier system (as in studio monitors or a theater sound system) to achieve the optimum sound reproduction capability.

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