Most people who stutter are fluent when singing. How is this possible?
What do Elvis Presley and Kylie Minogue have in common? Besides that they are both world famous musicians, they are also people that have been troubled by stuttering. But why don’t you hear it when you listen to their songs? There are a few explanations:
1. People use another voice for singing than for speaking, much smoother and easier. Therefore, the singing voice is also called easy onset of speech, easy voice or smooth voice. Research shows that the use of this easy voice is related to significant reductions in stuttering frequency.
2. When people sing a song, they often know the melody and lyrics. This familiarity decreases the cognitive load when producing words, and therefore leads to less stuttering.
3. Research shows that people who stutter don’t do so when slowly repeating words. This is comparable to singing. Words are more prolonged and less apt to be stumbled over.
4. When singing, people use a different area of the brain than the area involved in speech. This is also thought to be a reason that singing is associated with reduced stuttering.
According to researchers of the University of Iowa this is the bottom line:
“Whenever a child or adult who stutters talks differently than the way he usually does, he or she will be fluent. That includes using a stage voice or a foreign accent or dialect, whispering, singing, speaking to a rhythmic beat, using ‘baby talk’ and speaking at a lower or higher pitch than normal. Besides sounding and feeling unnatural, however, these ‘tricks’ rarely produce long-term fluency.”
Healey EC, Mallard AR 3rd, & Adams MR (1976). Factors contributing to the reduction of stuttering during singing. Journal of speech and hearing research, 19 (3), 475-80 PMID: 979210