Singing, at any age, can improve accuracy and speed of elocution during complex tasks.
Talking is an exercise that requires great coordination between the lungs and the muscles that control the vocal cords, jaw, tongue and lips. As the years go by, these anatomical structures undergo changes that affect vocal function. Fortunately, a study conducted by a team at Université Laval’s École des sciences de la réadaptation suggests that there may be a simple and enjoyable way to acquire and maintain quality speech. In a study published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, the team found that all it takes is group singing.
Pascale Tremblay’s team demonstrated this by studying various components of voice and speech in 78 people aged between 20 and 88. Of these, 40 were engaged in activities that challenged their motor and cognitive abilities, but had no connection with singing or music. The other 38 participants had been singing in a group for 3 hours or more each week, for at least 5 years.
Considering the amount of time they devoted to singing, they could be considered voice athletes," says Professor Tremblay. Our hypothesis was that this sustained training could have a positive impact on the motor components of speech, given that the same structures are used for singing and speaking. We also wanted to test whether singing could have a protective effect against the decline in motor speech processes that occurs with age."
The results of tests carried out at the CERVO Research Center’s Speech and Hearing Neuroscience Laboratory partly confirm this hypothesis. As expected, reading speed, the number of syllables spoken per minute, accuracy and stability of pronunciation, and the ability to pronounce complex words decreased with age. We showed that people who practised singing performed better than those in the control group, but only on demanding tasks, such as pronouncing complex words or pronouncing words or sentences quickly," says Professor Tremblay. These differences were present in singers of all ages."
"We could probably achieve similar results by practicing diction exercises intensively, but that would be a lot less fun than singing in a group!""
-- Pascale Tremblay, on the benefits of singing on the motor component of speech Singing requires special elocution efforts, because it involves reconciling the pronunciation of a song’s lyrics with the musical requirements of the melody - respect for tonality, time and modulation - explains Professor Tremblay: "It’s a very good exercise for the motor component of speech. We could probably achieve similar results by practicing diction exercises intensively, but that would be a lot less fun than singing in a group!"
The other signatories of the study, published in the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, are Lydia Gagnon, Johanna-Pascale Roy and Alison Arseneault.