June 15, 2008 Acoustical analyses of people belting out "Jingle Bells," "Brother John" and a Polish birthday song, "Sto Lat" reveal that most people sing in tune and in time, even without musical training. Moreover, two distinct "phenotypes", or recognizable forms, of impaired singing exist that are linked to perceptual abilities.
Establishing this linkage is helpful for designing a music education curriculum.
Dr. Simone Dalla Bella and colleagues from the University of Finance and Management in Warsaw, Poland, set out to evaluate the proficiency of singing in the general public because little data existed, yet most people believed the majority of people can't carry a tune.
The team individually recorded 42 visitors to a Montreal park whom they asked to sing the familiar anthem of the Quebec sovereignty movement, "Gens du Pays." They compared them to professional singers' renditions.
When the non-musicians were instructed to sing more slowly, 40 of 42 sang as accurately as the pros in terms of pitch and timing. Next, investigators invited 40 volunteers into their acoustics laboratory in Poland and instructed them to sing "Jingle Bells," and other songs.
The investigators then administered a test called the Montreal Battery of the Evaluation of Amusia.
From this they identified two phenotypes of impaired singing: off-pitch singers with perceptional deficits who don't know they're landing on the wrong notes, and poor-pitch singers who can tell they're off and sing anyway.
The talk is entitled "Singing out of tune: Disturbances of vocal performance in the general population."
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