Singing proficiency in the general population.


Most believe that the ability to carry a tune is unevenly distributed in the general population. To test this claim, we asked occasional singers (n=62) to sing a well-known song in both the laboratory and in a natural setting (experiment 1). Sung performances were judged by peers for proficiency, analyzed for pitch and time accuracy with an acoustic-based method, and compared to professional singing. The peer ratings for the proficiency of occasional singers were normally distributed. Only a minority of the occasional singers made numerous pitch errors. The variance in singing proficiency was largely due to tempo differences. Occasional singers tended to sing at a faster tempo and with more pitch and time errors relative to professional singers. In experiment 2 15 nonmusicians from experiment 1 sang the same song at a slow tempo. In this condition, most of the occasional singers sang as accurately as the professional singers. Thus, singing appears to be a universal human trait. However, two of the occasional singers maintained a high rate of pitch errors at the slower tempo. This poor performance was not due to impaired pitch perception, thus suggesting the existence of a purely vocal form of tone deafness.

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@article{Bella2007SingingPI, title={Singing proficiency in the general population.}, author={Simone Dalla Bella and Jean-François Gigu{\`e}re and Isabelle Peretz}, journal={The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America}, year={2007}, volume={121 2}, pages={1182-9} }