“I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.” – William James
We hear a lot about the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument and we’ve written about them in previous articles:
- Brain Scans Show How Learning a Musical Instrument Enhances Our Brains
- How Playing a Musical Instrument Alters the Brain
- The Wondrous Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument
- Why Children Should Have Music Lessons
One of the easiest ways to get children involved with a musical instrument is to teach them to sing! The voice is the our body’s own built-in musical instrument and one of the easiest instruments for any child to access. It offers the same benefits as learning any other musical instrument.
In a 2004 study, 144 6-year old students were randomly placed into 4 groups for 36 weeks:
- 1: Piano lessons
- 2: Singing lessons
- 3: Drama lessons
- 4: Control – no lessons
All the students received an IQ test before and after the 36 weeks:
- Group 3 and 4 increased their IQ scores by 5.5 points after the 36 weeks.
- Group 1 and 2 increased their IQ scores by 8.5 points after the 36 weeks.
What happened to the kids with the music lessons? Brain scans show that individuals who receive music lessons had greater development in various regions of their brains, including the primary motor, auditory and visual cortices.
“Anatomists today would be hard put to identify the brain of a visual artist, a writer, or a mathematician — but they could recognize the brain of a professional musician without a moment’s hesitation.” – Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia
In a 2009 study, executive function was measured in individuals in three groups:
- 1: bilingual
- 2: music performers (instrumentalist or vocalists)
- 3: control – neither bilingual or music performers
The results revealed that musical experience enhances executive control and that there was no difference whether they played an instrument or if they were singers.
It is easy to see how singing can develop executive function. An exercise of singing in rounds trains focus and working memory because you need to follow your own round without getting distracted. To sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat in rounds, for example, the first group will start with line 1. As soon as they reach line 2, the second group begins line 1.
Line 1: Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.
Line 2: Merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
- Group singing enhances psychological well-being – it lowers stress, relieves anxiety, and elevates endorphins.
- Singing boosts the immune system.
- It increases mental alertness.
The following games from Kate Fellin on Youtube are great for classrooms and groups:
More activities and games here:
- Singing Games and Dances Children Love – Denise Gagne, KMEA 2009
- Lesson Plans for Voice Teachers
- Singing Games and Action Songs – Pinterest
Resources for Learning to Sing
Music Apps for Singing
Learn to sing, improve your pitch accuracy, develop your vocal control, and enhance your musical sense.
SingTrue features over 30 interactive exercises that help you learn to sing easily, confidently and in perfect tune. By using the iPhone microphone and sophisticated signal processing, the app analyses your singing and provides personal feedback on how you can improve.