Aerobics, and I Can Carry a Tune?
October 31, 2011 7:04 PM   Subscribe

Does aerobic exercise usually measurably improve singing voice?

I've been working out regularly (and aerobically) for close to a year, but recently, in the past 3 months, I have been doing more intense aerobic workouts, mostly in the form of zumba and other dancing 4-5 times a week.

Seemingly all of a sudden (recently) I noticed that my singing voice has improved noticeably. I've never had a great singing voice but lately my ability to carry a tune has improved significantly. I assume the two things are related, but how exactly? Improved lung capacity? If this is so, why are many great singers overweight? Or, is it possible to have good lung capacity while still being overweight, OR are other factors besides lung capacity more important to a good singing voice?

I tried googling this, but couldn't find anything specific.
posted by bearette to Science & Nature (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Aerobic exercise will help with lung capacity and with breath control, two things that can have an effect on tone, and in some ways on tuning. It could also be partly that your posture has improved some from the dancing.

When you mention "overweight singers", I'm assuming you mean opera singers like Pavarotti? That's kind of a trope - a lot of opera singers aren't overweight - but ultimately, if you're an opera singer, you've spent decades training your voice, and hours a day practicing and rehearsing. Thes people have developed their voice for ages, and breath control, lung capacity, posture, effective use of resonant cavities, etc., all those things and many others factor in.
posted by LN at 7:43 PM on October 31, 2011

Best answer: "Bel canto" vocal pedagogy considers the diaphragm to be the driving force of good vocal production. Odds are if you're utilising your obliques or abdominal muscles in any way during your workouts, you're also engaging and strengthening the intercostal muscles and diaphragm.
When you have more muscular balance in your torso, your diaphragmatic action can be more efficient. I can assume that increased lung capacity also contributes to an improved sound, but what allows your pitch to become more centred and even is proper breath support as opposed to just having more air in your lungs.

(An aside, many "great" singers are overweight, but just as many are not -- I'm thinking of Joan Sutherland, Juan Diego Flores, Diana Damrau and Kathleen Battle off the top of my head.)
posted by sinnesloeschen at 7:45 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well what about your singing improved?

If you feel an increased ability to sing louder and hold notes longer, then maybe the exercise helped.

But if you feel increased ability to sing in tune, pick out melodies, develop better technique for singing fast, connected tones (melismas, as in Gregorian chant, or pop and R&B vocal stylings---what Christina Aguilera is doing while she's waving her hand around), or better diction, or anything else other than increased lung power and capacity I'd have to say you are probably just getting better at singing.

And maybe your dance aerobics are improving your sense of rhythm as well.
posted by TheRedArmy at 8:29 PM on October 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'd have to say you are probably just getting better at singing.

Well, I have, but I hardly ever sing, so it wouldn't be the result of practicing. Are there other ways to get better at singing without practicing and not related to physical exercise? It's probably not a growth spurt; I am already in my early 30n's.

Thanks for answers; interesting! My bets are on improved posture and abdominal muscles.
posted by bearette at 10:57 PM on October 31, 2011

I wouldn't necessarily say that they are related. Although they could be. But I doubt very much that abdominal muscle control has much to do with it. Not least because the proper action of the abdominal and intercostal muscles in trained singing is to make a "breathing in" motion to regulate the subglottal pressure while the air and sound actually, of course, goes out. This is, needless to say, not exactly natural and not exactly something that is developed through aerobic exercise. More to the point, there are plenty of people who can carry a tune and have reasonably strong voices for amateur or amplified singing that do this bit all wrong anyway. Not everyone needs to be able to fill a 3,000+ seat auditorium with no amplification!

Here's the thing about singing: There is a lot we don't really know about it. And sometimes -- quite often in vocal training -- you work away at something not making much progress for a period of time until suddenly you discover some different way of doing something, a bunch of pieces fall into place and suddenly you've make a quantum leap to being a much better singer. And so on. Training a professional voice, of course, takes many such jumps (and, frustratingly, sometimes today you can't remember today how to do yesterday's discovery). This is made all the more complicated due to the fact that most of the voice instrument is not under direct voluntary control.

It's also not clear whether you say that the quality of your vocal sound is better or whether you are simply better at pitch-matching/controlling the pitch (aka "carrying a tune"). These are two entirely distinct elements of vocalism.

If there were any relationship between your aerobic exercise and improvements in your vocal control, I'd guess it has to do with all the deep breathing getting you more used to a lower laryngeal position, or perhaps simply being more in touch with your vocal mechanism overall. Or it could just be a happy accident.

(NB. I am moving in on 25+ years of pro classical singing.)

posted by slkinsey at 2:41 PM on November 1, 2011

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