Sing like there’s nobody comparing
New research reveals the exceptional singing skills of contestants on reality TV shows may be stopping people from singing in public.
James Cook University psychology lecturer Dr Amanda Krause said the finding has important implications for singing participation, which is proven to have significant health and well-being benefits in adults.
“We thought that exposure to the technically demanding reality television singing style (such as on The Voice, X Factor, Got Talent, and The Masked Singer) might negatively influence singing self-concept compared to hearing amateur singers or plain, unembellished singing by professionals,” said Dr Krause.
She said reality show singers utilise ‘belt’ and ‘chest-mix’ voice in their performances.
“Belt is where the singer uses sophisticated acoustic and physical strategies to achieve loud phonation and a bright timbre. Chest-mix voice maintains a strong vocal quality on higher pitches.
“Using either is technically and stylistically demanding and the ability to do so is commonly the result of significant vocal training,” said Dr Krause.
Dr Krause and her collaborator, Dr Melissa Forbes (University of Southern Queensland) exposed 212 volunteers to one of four versions of ‘Happy Birthday’.
This was either a version with piano and no singing, amateur singing, professional plain singing, or professional singing in the style of reality TV. Participants were then asked to judge the performance they heard and to rate their own singing abilities.
“While other studies show most people can sing in tune and in time with reasonable accuracy, our results show that exposure to the reality TV style of singing may have negative impacts on people’s singing self-concept.
“In much the same way as fashion models represent unattainable ideals of physical beauty for members of the general public, elite singing as portrayed in reality TV singing shows valorises a style of singing beyond the technical capability of most,” said Dr Krause.
“It’s important for music teachers and organisers to be aware of cultural influences on an individual’s singing self-concept. In this way, with empathetic guidance, awareness, and support, even the most reluctant, inaccurately labelled ‘tone deaf’ singer can experience the many joys of singing.”
This research was published in the Journal of Voice and can be accessed online at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2022.06.024.
Dr Amanda Krause
M: Mobile contact available through JCU media liaison Alistair Bone – 0409 734 542