20. Getting into spectrograms: Some useful links

     We are already acquainted with spectrograms from our work with WASP and our readings in Ladefoged's Course, chapter 8, and in his Vowels and consonants. On this page we will learn a bit more about spectrograms and what kind of information they can give us. In the process we will acquaint ourselves with further useful resources on the Internet.

     A good place to begin is this page entitled "How do I read a spectrogram", by Phonetician Rob Hagiwara at the University of Manitoba, Canada. You will find it an excellent summary and review of some of the things we have learned so far:


     To further practice your new spectrogram-reading skills, try Rob's "Mystery Spectrogram" of the month. Don't worry, Rob won't keep you guessing forever: after a month or so he goes over each spectrogram, step by step, relating what you see in the display with individual features of the original speech signal. Try looking at the archived spectrograms from previous months for further practice – just click on "Past Mysteries".


     Previous phonetics II student Tatsuya Nishimura found the spectrograms on Rob's site useful in doing some of the text exercises, and collected them into a four-page Word file. Here it is, with Prof. Hagiwara's permission.

Here are short video introductions to spectrograms, from the site of MIT professor and researcher Kenneth Stevens, author of Acoustic Phonetics. In these, MIT's former Research Laboratory of Electronics Director Jonathan Allen discusses spectrograms, coarticulation, and text-to-speech synthesis research. Click on the URL below, then scroll to the bottom of the page. You will find two sets of links to the videos, for slower and faster connections; choose the one suited to your connection speed. (Right now the RealPlayer links to Part Two and Part Four don't seem to be working; try using QuickTime if you can – it's much clearer – or at least try watching Part One.)


     Here is another site with lots of information about spectrograms and how to read them; note the use of color spectrogram displays. Also, on this site, what we know as a 'tap' is here called a 'flap':


     There are many good links to explore here, such as: "What are waveforms?" "What are spectrograms?" and "Spectral cues for English phonemes". There is also another "Current Mystery Spectrogram" for you to puzzle over. If you think you've got it figured out, you can submit your answer over e-mail and maybe receive credit on the site next month!

     We know that spectrograms are not the only way to represent a sound graphically; we have already worked with waveforms and pitch tracks. But there are still other ways to present visually the information contained in a sound signal, in addition to the kind of spectrograms we have already studied. The next page will consist of just one link that shows you two of these different methods, while also reviewing the ones we're already acquainted with.

Next: Two other ways to visualize sound signals

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