tl;dr
GRIEF PATTERN:

when an artist suddenly features one of five auditory cues indicating loss, resulting in listener chills when combined effectively with a Structural Pattern

“That tremble in her voice really moved me. Chills all over my arms and legs.”

Technique 1:

Rapid oscillation

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Technique 2:

Pharyngeal Voice

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Technique 3:

“Breaking” voice

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Technique 4:

Falsetto

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Technique 5:

Gliding contours

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How It Works

When artists use the Grief pattern, they mimic the vocalizations that humans (and animals) produce when we experience social loss. Crying, sobbing, wails, and other anguished sounds share a set of rare, distinct features. These features are difficult to fake, which helps grief cues serve as honest signals of emotional pain. There are two theories of how the Grief pattern triggers listener chills. One is that grief cues make us “feel” the pain of a performer and imagine what it would feel like if we lost a loved one. A second theory posits that grief cues make us feel cold chills to encourage us to hold the person in distress to warm up. According to the theory, this grief response evolved to encourage infant care-giving.

Grief and Alarm cues share many technical features and tend to appear together.

Top Acoustic Pattern pairing:

Top Structural Pattern pairing:

Genre that most uses pattern:

Alarn, Harmonicity
Suspense
Pop/R&B

Technique 1: Rapid oscillation (vibrato)

Fast, irregular rises and falls in pitch that mimic how the human voice shakes unpredictable when we are emotionally upset. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— Unusually fast – or unusually uneven – vocal vibrato

— Vibrato on certain acoustic instruments (e.g. violins, cellos, Uellian pipes, saxophones)

— Production techniques and electronic instruments (e.g. pitch modulators, Hammond organ, etc.)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Quizas, quizas, quizas
Rise Up
Leaning On the Everlasting Arm
Hope There’s Someone
Love of My Life
RAMelia (Tribute to Amelia)
End Titles (Predator 2)
Requiem – Dies Irae

Artist

Gaby Moreno
Andra Day
Iris Dement
Antony and the Johnsons
Queen
RAM & Susana
Alan Silvestri
Verdi

Frisson Reported by Listeners

2:12
0:35
0:03
0:27
0:50
2:35
3:24
0:07

Technique 2: Pharyngeal voice

A nasal sound like the “ng” at the end of the word young. This sound occurs when humans cry and our tears mix with mucus, causing more air to pass through the sinus than the mouth. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— Vocal techniques (e.g., lowering the palette and constricting the throat to achieve a pharyngeal sound)

— Child singers (e.g., especially young male singers that naturally produce a nasal-heavy sound)

— Lyrics emphasizing ng, m, n, and i sounds

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Lay Me Down
Cranes In The Sky
I Hope
Skyscrapers
Limousine
Goodbye To A World
Into the West
Marietta’s Lied

Artist

Sam Smith
The Weeknd
Gabby Barrett
OK Go
Brand New
Porter Robinson
Annie Lennox
Korngold

Frisson Reported by Listeners

0:56
3:52
2:13
2:49
1:49
1:47
1:29
3:34

Technique 3: “Breaking” voice

Uncontrolled transitions between modal and falsetto registers, mimicking how our pharynx tightens when we cry and causes unpredictable swings into falsetto. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are: 

— Talented lead singers achieving pronounced breaks

— Instruments mimicking breaking voice with disjunct motion

— Extended vocal techniques (e.g. yodeling, ululation)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Purple Rain
u
Crazy Arms
Dance Monkey
Ball and Chain
Sunset Lover
Theme from Schindler’s List
Vesti la giubba – Pagliacci

Artist

Prince
Kendrick Lamar
Ray Price
Tones And I
Janis Joplin
Petit Biscuit
John Williams
Pavarotti (Leoncavallo)

Frisson Reported by Listeners

2:35
2:26
0:10
0:35
7:29
0:22
0:16
2:33

Technique 4: Falsetto

Sounds with a thin, “airy” quality that mimics how humans unconsciously shift up into the falsetto register when we are emotionally upset. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are:

— Long vocal holds in falsetto (e.g. at the climax or a phrase or start of a new section)

— Male vocalists that generally have more contrast between chest voice and falsetto 

— High-pitched notes on string instruments mimicking falsetto (e.g. artificial harmonics above natural range)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Angel
Honesty
Drinkin’ Me Lonely
John Wayne Gacy Jr.
Festival
We’re All We Need
The Bridge of Khazad-dum
Caprice No. 24

Artist

Sarah McLachlan
Pink Sweat$
Chris Young
Sufjan Stevens
Sigur Ros
Above & Beyond
Howard Shore
Heifetz (Paganini)

Frisson Reported by Listeners

1:07
0:59
2:51
1:22
0:52
0:28
5:14
5:38

Technique 5: Gliding contours (“wails”)

Prolonged, falling notes with a gradual rise-and-fall contour, mimicking the wails humans are unable to maintain a stable pitch and volume when we grieve. Some of the ways artists implement this technique are: 

— Single, long wails with a slow rise and slow fall

— Repeated, short wails with a fast rise and fast fall

— Certain alternating progressions that mimic wailing (e.g. I-iii-I-iii, IV-iv-IV-iv)

Genre

Pop/R&B
Hip Hop/Rap
Country/Folk
Alternative/Indie
Rock/Metal
Dance/Electronic
Film/Games
Classical/World

Song

Strange Fruit
XXX
Either Way
Jealous
Maggot Brain
A Way To Say Goodbye
Message For The Queen (300)
Psalm 50

Artist

Nina Simone
XXX
Chris Stapleton
Josh Daniel
Funkadelic
Seven Lions
Tyler Bates
Seraphim Bit-Kharibi

Frisson Reported by Listeners

2:24
X:XX
1:00
1:08
7:27
3:14
1:39
2:49

Listen to more examples in the Qbrio Library