Have you ever heard a great song that has transformed your mood? Evoked tears, a smile, or got you moving? Found yourself transported back to childhood memories through the first few bars of a song, or heard music that you associate immediately with a time in your life, a time of loss and heartbreak, perhaps travels, or a rite of passage.
Music has a universally powerful effect on human beings.
Have you ever sung in a group? Perhaps at a school or church choir, in a musical performance or a band, maybe you are currently part of one or just enjoy singing along at a live concert. Well, if any of these resonate, you're not alone, science tells us that singing is very good for the brain and building connection in community.
Singing Changes Your Brain
Group singing lowers stress, relieves anxiety
Group singing releases endorphins
Singing alters your physical and emotional landscape as musical vibrations move through at a cellular level.
Further Reading: Time Magazine; Singing Changes Your Brain
There are Therapeutic Effects of Singing for Neurological Disorders
The Benefits of making music are being researched for stuttering, Parkinson's disease, aphasia and autism. You may recall the film "The Kings Speech" as a wonderful example of using the voice in a particular way to overcome stuttering.
Rowan Atkinson suffered a speech impediment that he found disappeared when he played other characters, and after a lot of hard work, he developed the character of Mr Bean, one of the most recognised comedic characters of all time.
"Music making (playing an instrument or singing) is a multimodal activity that involves the integration of auditory and sensorimotor processes"
Singing increases Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Humming, mantra chanting, hymn singing, and upbeat energetic singing all increase HRV in slightly different ways. Singing initiates the work of a vagal pump, sending relaxing waves through through the vagus nerve. Singing at the top of your lungs works the muscles in the back of the throat to activate the vagus.
Energetic singing activates both your sympathetic nervous system and vagus nerve, which helps to get into a flow state.
Singing in unison, which is often done in choirs, churches and synagogues, also increases HRV and vagus function. Singing has been found to increase oxytocin. Chanting, energetic singing, and choral singing stimulate your vagus nerve, protect your heart, and help you get into a flow state.
What Would Your Life's Playlist Sound Like?
Elders with Alzheimers dementia come to life listening to the music they loved in their younger years - the lyrics are often crystal clear, the melody second nature.
Towards the end of life, sound is emotionally and socially significant and also the last sense we lose.
Sound lives in the oldest parts of the brain, so it's one of the first things we have, and the last things to go.
Learn More: ABC Catalyst, Music on the Brain
Crying In "Mother's Accent" At Birth
Expert from fantastic Ted Talk, linked below, that highlights just how early "sound" develops in the brain -
A study published last year found that from the moment of birth, babies cry in the accent of their mother's native language.
French babies cry on a rising note while German babies end on a falling note, imitating the melodic contours of those languages
Now why would this kind of foetal learning be useful?
It may have evolved to aid the baby's survival.
From the moment of birth, the baby responds most to the voice of the person who is most likely to care for it -- its mother. It even makes its cries sound like the mother's language, which may further endear the baby to the mother, and which may give the baby a head start in the critical task of learning how to understand and speak its native language.
I hope you can enjoy some music today,
and better still -
with other people!
A few more music inspiring links -
Documentary: Choir of Hard Knocks
Community Choir Toronto: Choir! Choir! Choir!
True Story Film: Paradise Road
Book 'Toning': The Creative Power of the Voice by Laurel Elizabeth Keyes