Is it really possible for opera divas to break glass with their voice?

Remember the old Maxell tape commercials from the 70s? Where a tape recording of an opera star shattered a champaign glass, just the same as the original singer?
Is it really possible to break glass with the human voice?


Just need to hit the right resonant frequency, at appropriate volume.

As long as the glass is made from crystal (not your ordinary run-of-the-mill silica glass), yeap. The Master speaks.

Thanks! Should have checked the archives.

This is off topic but that seems like it could make a pretty good military weapon, using sound to destroy anything as long as you have the same frequency.


Oh man…half the doper’s on this forum are biting their tongue not to say that special little catch phrase.

It should probably be noted that this has only been proven possible with a recorded human voice and an amplifier. So yeah, that’s possible… but you could shatter glass using any sound source as long as you’ve got the right frequency and some technology.

Reading through the cite there’s no evidence that it can be done with an unamplified human voice. Cecil says:
“Enrico Caruso and Italian opera singer Beniamino Gigli are said to have managed it, and I seem to remember Ella Fitzgerald doing it once in a Memorex commercial…snip…I’ll grant I haven’t been able to turn up a documented instance of this, but …snip… none of the technical people I spoke to about this seemed to think doing it by voice alone was completely impossible”

So it doesn’t take an opera singer; just someone that can carry a tune AND an amp… but no, it’s never been documented happening just by someone using their larynx alone.

One that goes to 11?

My mom has been a singer most of her life. I personally saw her crack (but not shatter) a crystal glass demonstrating a high C after a family friend claimed that wasn’t possible. (I was about 6 at the time, and I remember I cried because it was so loud :slight_smile: ). She can’t do it anymore, though. She only seemed to have the ability when she was in her teens to mid-20’s.


Actually, my wife’s old voice coach was sitting in her car waiting for an audition many years ago, and experienced the phenomenon first hand. She did some singing excercises while in the car to get her vocal cords warmed up and cracked the windshield, so I’m told. Others I have spoken to have attested to the veracity of the story, FWIW, so I’m prepared to accept it as a factual account. I’m pretty sure winshields aren’t made of crystal, though.

I should add that you can break silica glass with sound, but it rely on a massive pressure gradient instead of resonance. Difference between a crystal lattice and an amorphous solid don’t-ya-know.

Come to think of it, I think I need a decent stereo, a mic and a cheap lead glass for a little home experiment…

I think they’ve investigated this kind of thing but more in the ultra-sonic range rather than in the amplified-singer range.

You know, sometimes I wish there was a deadpan smilie.

What if you focussed the energy in a line such that the energy does not diminish with distance. Could you call the device “scalar”?

Troublemaker! :mad:

Breath Ray?

This was a really hot topic in the 70’s. I remember seeing footage of a tank with a big speaker mounted to the front of it.

The main problem you run into is that you have to hit the exact resonnance, and most things don’t have a nice convenient single ressonant frequency. Take a building, for example. It’s not like a crystal glass, where if you hit just the right frequency the entire building will tumble to the ground in shards. Instead, if you hit just the right frequency, maybe one window will blow out. Change the frequency a bit, and maybe you get another window. The bricks are going to be tough because they are composed of bits of different material. You may get individual parts of bricks to ressonate, but you’re going to have a heck of a time getting even a single total brick to resonnate, let alone an entire wall.

These days the military does still investigate sound weapons, but it’s no longer the hot topic it was 30 years ago. They have made grenades which are designed to temporarily blind and deafen someone, which are ideal weapons to throw into a room where terrorists or some such have a bunch of hostages. Disorient everyone with the grenades, rush in, shoot the bad guys, and save the good guys. Fun stuff.

The military also uses sound weapons for what they call psychological operations. If you want your enemy performing poorly, blast loud music at him all night long. The poor grunt on the receiving end of things isn’t going to be too focused and ready to fight if he hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in many days.

Great idea, if you enemy attacks you with a goblet of finest Edinburgh crystal, certainly, but suppose he’s got a pointed stick - what then?

Few large complex objects have a single resonant frequency and in most cases some parts will dampen any resonance in other parts.

Gotcha ya?

Ah, they’re 1920s-style “Deaf Rays”.