Belt It Out Detta
“The Only Thing Better Than Singing, Is More Singing”
My earliest memories of my mum were of her voice. To be specific, her singing voice. I remember her singing in church, in the car, karaoke, around the piano with her siblings, in fact anywhere. She would love to sing seconds and had us kids do firsts. It always made her happy and when we heard her singing, we knew she was in good form.
I remember my guitar teacher saying to me years ago, that the voice was also an instrument and that I should use it more. I had never thought about this before.
On the home page of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, Lyz Cooper talks about a technique called ‘overtoning’ (a softer western style version of Mongolian Khöömii singing) and remarks, “it lulled me into a deep state of relaxation”. She goes on to say that, even though she had spent 10 years practising meditation, the inner peace from this practice had not been as profound! My interest peeked at this point. I tried it using just 2 vowels, o and e and found it very soothing on my mind.
It is hard to find a succinct definition of the practice but, I think listening to a short video clip demo and explanation is by far the best way to learn. I recommend Anna Maria Hefele dealing with the basics on you tube. In an article by the conductor and singer, Stuart Hinds, he says that anyone who breathes and forms vowels, can perform overtoning. Good news when you consider the health benefits. So, give it a try.
Singing and Memory
In a study carried out in Helsinki in 2015, it was reported that; singing was found to be beneficial for working memory, executive function, and orientation especially in persons with mild dementia and younger (< 80 years) age. In another very interesting paper, research at The Reid School of Music, Edinburgh University, found that singing helped in the learning of an unfamiliar foreign language (in this case, Hungarian). It seemingly, improved phrase learning.
Ever wonder why corporations like Coca -Cola have catchy songs? They know you will link their advertising jingle to their product in your memory banks. Remember “Hilltop”? People from all over were phoning radio stations to play the tune. I always associate this song with coke. Marketing at its best!
Finding Your Voice
Louise Barry, singer / song writer (soon to be published in Mental Health for Millennials 4), says in her chapter on music and wellbeing, “Find your own voice through whatever medium feels most natural for you. I am dyslexic, but I express myself through music. Give yourself space and time to find your own ‘song’
Singing and Spirituality
The Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner refers to a link between the two, “When the human being hears music, he experiences a sense of well-being, for the tones resonate with what he remembers from his spiritual home.”
But, how would we define spirituality? What definition could one give to a deeply personal experience which would resonate with most people? In an article I stumbled upon by Sing Portland, I saw a brilliant definition that just clicked with me, so I must share it with you:
“Spirituality, is a process of reformation which aims at recovering the original shape of man … [focusing on] the deepest values and meanings by which people live.”
I know when I hear music in church, especially singing, I am deeply moved, and I can never say why. Sometimes, a church choir will automatically move me to tears and not in a sad way. An experience which transcends human logic or definition. It doesn’t matter if I understand the language or not, the emotion cuts right through me. As I write this, I am in a small village north of Amsterdam, called Hoorn. I went to the local church and sat in the small dedicated space off the nave on Sunday just to say my own prayers and light some candles for my loved ones. I heard singing coming from the main church and my heart skipped a beat. I had no idea what the words meant, but I knew that I was being spiritually ‘reformed’ by it.
Overview of Benefits
This is a summary taken from lifehackson what singing can do for you. Maybe some will be new to you:
- Singing releases endorphins and oxytocin
- Singing improves cognition
- Singing leads to a longer life
- Singing lowers your blood pressure
- Singing tones up your facial muscles, your diaphragm, and your intercostal muscles
- Singing increases empathy between cultures
- Singing develops the lungs and gives you better posture
- Singing brings people together and creates a sense of community
- Singing can help people with Parkinson’s disease
- Singing improves your memory
- Singing improves your immunity
So, it is official; singing is good for your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. It increases endorphins which lift your mood. As an Immunologist, I also found it interesting to note, that singing boosts the Immune system. In an article in Science Daily,, it was noted that, “Singing in a choir for just one hour boosts levels of immune proteins in people affected by cancer, reduces stress and improves mood, which in turn could have a positive impact on overall health”.This was taken from a study carried out on 193 members of 5 different choirs, so no small study!
Being a member of a local choir, I know that the uplifting songs, the sense of belonging to a group and having a great choir master and backup musicians makes me happy. In the winter nights when it is cold and wet, I can think of many reasons not to go out to practice, but I know for certain that on my way home, I always feel great.
In an article in the Irish Times, the journalist Patrick Freyne (former member of Indie band, The National Prayer Breakfast), says; “I don’t know why singing makes me cry, but I think it’s because we construct a song from the air with our memories and our lungs and mouths; I feel connected to other people in a way I struggle with otherwise”. Maybe singing really does connect us in a way we never thought possible, regardless of our personal narrative.
Exercise (from The British Academy of Sound Therapy)
- Choose a few of your favourite tracks that add up to around 14 minutes to get the maximum sonic vitamin booster (what’s not to like about these 3 words?)
- Make sure you sing for at least 5 minutes to feel the uplifting benefits of singing
Tip: Songs with a driving rhythm are particularly good because they have that irresistible toe tapping ability. Lyrical content is also important, so choose something with positive lyrics.
Listen to Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt singing, “Don’t Know Much”, if you want to really enjoy the human voice. You will all have your favourite toe tapping songs. During the Covid 19 lockdown, Mary McAleese “scatters the gloom” by listening to, The Galway Girl sung by Steve Earl and Sharon Shannon.
I will leave the final words to the late, great Karen Carpenter whose voice I adored (taken from; Sing A song)
♪Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong………..
Don’t worry that it’s not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear
Just sing, sing a song♪
You don’t have to wait to be good enough. Take the mic and just belt it out.
 Cooper, L. ‘The Healing Power of Our Voice’. www.britishacademyofsoundtherapy.com
 Hinds, S. “Overtone Singing: Not Just for Monks and Shamans Anymore” International Choral Bulletin. Oct 2012.
 Särkämö, T. “Singing is Beneficial for Memory and Mood Especially in Early Dementia”. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Dec. 2015.
 Ludke, K.M et al. “Singing can Facilitate Foreign Language Learning” Mem Cogn (2014) 42:41–52
 Tan, J. “9 Brilliant Coca Cola Advertising Examples of Referral Marketing”. Referral candy blog. 2020.
 Barry, L. “Music & Wellbeing”. Mental Health for Millennials, Vol 4. Book. Book Hub Publishing, 2020
 Namen Van, Marion. “How I (accidently) Started A Spiritual Practice of Singing” Singingportland.com. 2017
 Crawford, S. “11 Benefits of Singing You May Not Know” www.lifehack.org.
 Fancourt, D, Williamon, A, Carvalho, L.A, Steptoe, A, Dow, R & Lewis, I.” Singing modulates mood, stress, cortisol, cytokine & neuropeptide activity in cancer patients and carers”. Ecancermedicalscience, 2016.
 O’Connell, M. “Sometimes I don’t Know What I Think Until I’ve Written It” Sept 13th, 2020
 “75 Reasons to Be Happy” Irish Times (People) Oct 17th,2020
*Giselle Marrinan is the Author of ‘Another Zero’ and is Assistant Editor on the recently published book, Mental Health For Millennials Volume 4 (‘On Wellbeing’).