Don’t ditch the pitch: the benefits of singing

Students singing in 'The Sound of Music' at O'Neill Collegiate in 2017. Photo credit: O'Neill Collegiate

Have you ever belted out a song in the shower? Rocked out alone in your car with the music blasting? Hummed along with your favourite tune?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re a singer and are legally not allowed to say, “I don’t sing.”

Well, I’m not sure about the legalities but it is important to recognize that everyone, at one point in their lifetime, has sung a song — and singing has so many benefits.

Personally, my world revolves around singing. I was exposed to music at a very young age. My mother is a classically-trained voice teacher and offers private voice, music theory and piano lessons out of our home.

I have been singing ever since I can remember, from pop to opera and everything in between. I’ve been in over 12 musical theatre productions over a period of 6 years, participated in high school choirs that sang university level repertoire and I also sang in an Off-Broadway Showcase in New York City — clearly, all I do is sing.

Chronicle reporter Kathryn Fraser singing a high note as Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music at O'Neill C.V.I in 2017. Photo credit: Lori LaFrance

I choose to sing because it’s therapeutic.

It comes naturally to me and it’s an art form. It’s beneficial because it’s a way to express oneself when words can’t. Singing can be an emotional release and it can mean different things to different people.

For example, Edith Piaf, a famous French vocalist, once said, “Singing is a way of escaping. It’s another world. I’m no longer on earth.” I agree with Piaf, I feel the exact same way.

Another important reason why I sing is because it has so many health benefits. Vocal cords are muscles and when you sing or even speak, they’re having a workout session of their own. Over time, the cords strengthen and this can improve your sleeping, tone your facial muscles and strengthen your diaphragm and abdomen.

Physically, singing can help in a variety of ways. A person’s posture will be properly aligned and they’ll experience lower blood pressure and stress levels. Additionally, endorphins and oxytocin are released when singing, raising spirits and decreasing pain.

It’s also important to note: you must take care of your voice. No screaming, limit the whispering, don’t strain your voice and don’t clear your throat. The last thing you want is vocal nodules or ‘nodes.’ Nodules are bruises and bumps that form due to misuse of the cords – they sometimes require surgery to remove.

Sing within your range, drink loads of water, take breaks between vocal sessions and remember to be positive.

If a person says, “I can’t sing” or “I’m not a singer,” it doesn’t mean that person shouldn’t sing. Voices can shift and change with practice.

When I was in high school, I was a peer tutor with a vocal class. There was a young singer who had the drive and passion for singing but had difficulty matching pitch. The vocal teacher and I worked with him throughout the semester and gave him vocal exercises which would directly target the problem. At the end of the course, the young student’s voice changed and, after constant practice, he was able to hit every single note.

This is another example of how singing can transform and benefit a person. Not only was the student motivated by our support and the resources he was given, but he exuded confidence during the entire process — his love of singing triumphed all.

Everyone can sing.

If you’re still having reservations, that’s okay. Continue singing in your shower or in your car.

The sound may surprise you. And there may even be some resonating health benefits – both mental and physical.