Whether you sing as a hobby or just in the shower, you’re probably having a bit of fun and letting out some steam.
But, as it turns out, singing might do you more good than you realise. Furthermore, singing, particularly with others, is one of the best things to add to your lifestyle.
Australia’s Biggest Singalong! premieres Saturday 5 June, 8.30pm AEST, live on SBS, NITV and on SBS On Demand. For more information, visit: sbs.com.au/singalong.
Singing helps you be a good person
Singing with others is a powerful way of breaking down barriers, making people truly equal. One example of this is the singing program With One Voice, which brings people together to join voices.
"We bring together doctors, lawyers, teachers, CEOs, retirees with migrants, people with depression and disabilities and job seekers, aged nine to 90 from all backgrounds," says Tania de Jong, the program’s founder and chairperson of Creative Universe.
But this is only the beginning of what combining their forces can do.
"We have an innovative program where we make one another’s wishes come true," de Jong explains. "People might wish for help to get a job or help with their resume, learn to use the Internet or to learn English: whatever it happens to be. Their wishes are read out and people start to help one another with their wishes.
" Last year we had over 500 wishes granted through the program, which has led to 150 people connected to jobs and work experiences."
This wish-giving program is successful because of the singing that takes place first and foremost.
"It’s because people are in a more receptive headspace after singing together," says de Jong. "When you sing with other people it puts you in a different frame of mind, and you start to feel your connection with other people much more solidly. When you sing, the differences between you fade away."
Singing helps you sleep
Anything that encourages better sleep is a good thing and singing is an easy way to battle your night-time issues.
UK research has found that singing and related vocal exercises can help make you tired and feel ready for sleep, and also reduces the symptoms of sleep apnoea. The news only gets better, particularly for those long-suffering partners of snorers. Singing can not only reduce the amount of snoring that’s being done, but also the noise level of it.
It’s all related to the pharyngeal muscles, so it’s time to forget the sit-ups for your abs and do some singing for your throat strength.
"When you sing with other people it puts you in a different frame of mind, and you start to feel your connection with other people much more solidly. When you sing, the differences between you fade away."
Singing repairs your brain
For those with brain diseases such as dementia, music and song can unlock memories and emotions that are otherwise unattainable. In fact, music therapy is now a widely acknowledged method of helping people living with dementia to form connections to their past and manage behaviours. One study has even found that couples, where one person has dementia, are able to communicate on an even level once again while singing together.
"For people with dementia, songs take them very quickly back to their past," explains music therapist and tutor Imogen Clark from the University of Melbourne, who uses singing, musical instruments, recorded music and improvisation to treat her clients. "They can connect in a much more tangible and coherent way when they’re directed back to a place where their brain is functioning at a higher level."
Singing is like health food for the brain, helping those with damage to this vital organ, but also helping to prevent problems from occurring. "Singing increases neuroplasticity, so your brain starts to rebuild damaged pathways," says de Jong. "Even if you don’t have damaged pathways, it still boosts your brainpower."
Learning to unleash the benefits of singing
Think you can’t sing? Well, it doesn’t matter if you’re in tune, the benefits are still there. If you’re interested in getting better, though, here are some ways to help you learn to improve your singing ability and, perhaps more importantly, your vocal confidence:
- Sing Sharp is a game-based approach to learning to stay in tune, with score-keeping for competitive singers and warm-ups in karaoke style.
- Sing True claims they can teach even the most tone deaf people to sing well.
- Vox Tools gets great reviews for its exercises, warm-ups and practical tips.
- Android users can utilise the Learn to Sing app, inspired by Guitar Hero. It gives you warm-ups, scores your pitch and visually helps you hit the right notes.
- Go to YouTube and search ‘learn to sing’. A good starting point is the tutors being raved about online, Superior Singing Method and Rae Henry.
- The BBC shares practical tips for vocal warm-ups, breathing better for singing and lots of tips for improving.
- Check out the exercises you can do for your throat, voice and tongue to help improve sleep apnoea and snoring.
Put yourself out there
- Join a choir with Creativity Australia: you’ll gain all the benefits of singing with others, as well as helping to grant wishes to those in need.
- Head along to the annual Festival of Voices, where a wintry Hobart is transformed into a city of song. Enjoy a concert or take part in the public singing opportunities.
- Search online for a music teacher in your local area.
- If you’re really enjoying singing and have mastered some basics, you could take a music course with the Australian Institute of Music.
- The Big Sing is an Alice Springs event that encourages all singing enthusiasts to channel Australia’s Indigenous heart.
- African and cultural drumming and singing workshops are held regularly at Rhythm Culture.