Created By: fluffything on July 7, 2011 Last Edited By: fluffything on July 9, 2011

Improbable Vocal Skills

Voices don't work that way!

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In Real Life, the vocal range of people is pretty impressive. The structure of our lungs, vocal chords, and windpipe all allow us to provide a wide range of high pitched to low pitched sounds. With practice, we can do a wide variety of different voices or sound like the opposite gender. Likewise, various animals are able to produce a wide variety of sounds as well.

However, there are limits to this impressive vocal range. We, for example, couldn't make ourselves sound exactly like a jet engine with our vocals alone.

The world of fiction, however, is another story. In many forms of fiction, characters (human or otherwsie) are able to make sounds/voices with their vocals that would otherwise be impossible. A character may be able to perfectly imitate another person's voice, or they could be able to perfectly mimic a particular sound just with their voice alone.

This, naturally, excludes characters use outside forces (IE: Magic, psychic powers, voice-altering machinery, etc.) to alter their voices. This is strictly for characters who are able to make voices naturally that are completely out of their vocal range or are impossible to make in the first place.

Note: Keep in mind that this is for characters (human or otherwise) that are able to make sounds that are either out of their vocal range or are biologically impossble to make in the first place. Remember, people who do impressions had years of practice and, even then, they still have limits to the sounds they can make and how accurate those sounds are.

Compare Man of a Thousand Voices and Larynx Dissonance.

Examples-

  • In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Frank was able to perfectly mimic Brad's and Janet's voices to convince the other(s) to sleep with him.
  • One episode of Arthur has Buster able to perfectly imitate the rattling sound a broken car was making.
  • Dukey from Johnny Test is able to perfectly imitate Gil Nexdoor's voice.
  • One infamous scene in Jaws: The Revenge had the shark roaring. Sharks cannot roar.
  • Subverted with actor Michael Winslow. While he's really good at impersonating various sounds, he cannot sound 100% like them.
  • Jerry from Tom and Jerry has roared at least once in the shorts. Mice are far too small to produce any sound that even remotely resembles a roar.
  • Zartan from G.I. Joe can perfectly mimic anyone's voice -after hearing them speak one sentence.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog is able to perfectly imitate the sounds of whatever Monster of the Week is attacking at the time.
Community Feedback Replies: 11
  • July 7, 2011
    shimaspawn
    Actually, you're wrong about the limits on the human vocal cords. Most of the examples of humans doing this all have one source. A real person.

    • Michael Winslow is an actor that is famed for actually being able to make himself sound like anything. His work is highlighted in Spaceballs and the Police Academy films.
  • July 7, 2011
    fluffything
    ^ Michael Winslow may be able to sound similar to various objects, but he cannot sound EXACTLY like them. Likewise, people who do impressions may sound SIMILAR to whoever they're impersonating, but don't sound exactly like them.

    This is for when a character/animal is able to produce a sound that's physically impossible for them to make vocally. For example, while a person could make a sound similar to a helicopter's blades, it wouldn't sound EXACTLY like it.

    Again, look at my example of Frank impersonating Brad/Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He's able to perfectly mimic their tone, dialouge, pitch, and whatnot with his voice alone. Something that would be physically impossible in Real Life.

    Even if you (or someone else) are really good at doing impressions or imitating sounds, there's still limits to what sounds a person can make.
  • July 7, 2011
    shimaspawn
    ^ He can sound so close that it can't be told apart from the real thing by analysing the sound's waveform. That's as close to perfect as it really needs to be. He's also the best in the world.
  • July 7, 2011
    fluffything
    ^ It's still not the same as being able to perfectly mimic a sound or being able to produce a sound that's phsycially impossible to make vocally.

    ^ This YTTW is for when a character (human or otherwise) is able to perfectly mimic a sound/voice that is either completely out of their vocal range or is biologically impossible to make in the first place.

    For example, again, the shark in Jaws: The Revenge roars at one point in the film. Sharks are incapable of roaring since they lack vocal chords.

    Likewise, again, Frank in Rocky Horror was able to perfectly mimic Brad's/Janet's voice. We're not talking a really good impression, he is able to sound 100% like them despite the fact that his vocal chords shouldn't be able to have THAT much range in his voice...even if he is an alien.

    Michael Winslow is a subversion of this. Yes, he can sound very similar to various objects, but it's not 100% the same. Likewise, he does have limits to the sounds he can make with his voice. For one thing, he could never perfectly imitate Godzilla's roar, for example, because it's biologically impossible.
  • July 7, 2011
    Auxdarastrix
    If this trope were to go forward, I think non-humans and humans using magic/psionics should automatically be excluded. Who is to say what is impossible for a wizard or an alien?
  • July 7, 2011
    fluffything
    Hmm...good point. I'll add it in the description.
  • July 7, 2011
    Darthcaliber
    Zartan from GI Joe can perfectly mimic anyone's voice -after hearing them speak one sentence.
  • July 7, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Courage The Cowardly Dog occasionally displays this along with his hysterical involuntary shapeshifting.
    • Cousin Ophelia of The Addams Family could sing in multiple voices at one time.

  • July 9, 2011
    qualitycontrol
    You should go to You Tube and search for Lyre Bird.
  • July 9, 2011
    IronLion
    In "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" from The Pirates Of Penzance, Major-General Stanley professes to be able to "hum a fugue". Fugues involve several voices in counterpoint with one another, so it would be impossible for one person to hum one.
  • July 9, 2011
    Aminatep
    You are dramatically underestimating the things a human's vocal chords can do. Humans are capable of mimicking the sounds of various animals, for one, to the extent where you can't tell between the original and the imitation from the sonogram. One particular example had a scientist mimicking dolphin's clicking sounds to an extent where she could probably communicate with them if she knew how, because not a single expert, no matter how they tried, could ever tell between the original and the copy.

    You know what? Replace the "impossible" with the "unlikely" everywhere.
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