Singing tones in Cantonese operas and pop songs

Author(s): Bin Li and Chung-Nin Choi


This study investigated the concordance between tones and tunes in Cantonese songs in traditional operas and popular music, with a focus on methods of song writing. We calculated degrees of concordance by tracking directions of pitch changes in consecutive syllables in the melody and lyrics, and also measured the musical range of each song in terms of distances in absolute pitches. We then compared tone-tune mapping patterns discovered across genres and classes of songs. It is hoped that our findings will provide evidence to the study on music and speech in tonal languages, and also implications to using songs to facilitate the learning of a tonal language like Cantonese.