The Science bit…
Singing has a wide range of personal benefits besides learning about music and how to create it. As well as developing and improving healthy singing techniques, and also being a thoroughly enjoyable experience, a recent education research project at Roehampton University has shown these workshops to have multiple physiological and social benefits for the participants.
Working with the voice brings many physical benefits (such as improved posture and respiratory strength, increased energy levels and also stimulation for the mind), but there are also many social and personal benefits (boosted self-esteem and confidence, improved communication and listening skills, raised self-awareness and awareness of others, and developed team working skills),
“When a people lose their song, they often lose identity, cohesion and morale. When people do sing together, they often find the experience meaningful, energising and refreshing, and they come away with hope, a lift of spirit and a sense of belonging.” (White, 2001)
Health & Well-being
“Because singing is visceral (relating to, or affecting, our bodies), it can’t help but effect change” says Suzanne Hanser, chair of the music therapy department at Berklee College of Music, Boston.
Studies of human emotional response have found that participating in musical activity can bring more enjoyment than many other leisure activities, enhancing our willingness to interact with others, and “at least one study has suggested that involvement in the arts, including as a spectator, can prolong your life.” (Kaufman, 1999)
Professor Graham Welch tells us that people who sing are healthier than people who don’t. Singing exercises the lungs and tones up the intercostal muscles and diaphragm. Singing also causes deeper breathing than many other forms of exercise, opening up the respiratory tubes and sinuses as well as increasing aerobic capacity. This leads to a greater intake of oxygen, benefiting the heart and circulation, and decreasing muscle tension. (Welch & Thurman, 1997, White, 2001)
Further studies have linked singing with a lower heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and reduced stress. In Hancox’s study on the perceived benefits associated with active participation in choral singing, 84 members of a university college choral society were surveyed to see whether they felt there were ways in which participation in the choir may have benefited their health and well-being. Some participants reported feeling more positive, feeling more alert and feeling spiritually uplifted. With respect to health benefits, 84% of participants gave responses, of which the main themes related to improved lung function and control over breathing, improved mood and stress reduction. The study showed that significantly more women than men experienced feelings of well-being and relaxation. (Hancox, 2001)
Several studies have found that singing also enhances immunity, one study, conducted at the University of Frankfurt, finding that singers had higher levels of immunoglobulin A and cortisol (indicators of enhanced immunity) after singing Mozart’s “Requiem” than before. The activity of singing is also thought to block some of the neural pathways that pain travels through (Hancox, 2001).
Researchers at the University of Manchester have discovered that the sacculus, an organ in the inner ear connected to the part of the brain responsible for registering pleasure, responds quickly to low frequency, high intensity sounds, commonly found in singing. Under the right circumstances this can lead to the release of pain relieving, or pleasure giving, endorphins. (Wh