What if Singing was Like Reading?

I recently came across an article on the BBC website claiming that everyone has the ability to sing, even those who claim to be tone deaf. This surprised me and I wanted to dig deeper, because some statistics claim that up to 70% of the North American population claim that they ‘can’t sing’, ‘can’t hold a tune’, or ‘aren’t a singer’. When I sat down with long time friend and Opera Singer, Brooke Dufton, I posed the question to her. Can everyone learn to sing? “Yes!” was her enthusiastic answer.

Through her Phd research at the University of Toronto and her own experiences teaching ‘non’ singers, she believes that the notion that there are singers and non-singers is cultural. She informed me that current science shows that everyone has the ability to sing. She explained that ‘tone-deaf’ is a misnomer because the matching of pitch is a physical coordination issue. Those who are labeled as tone deaf, can actually hear tone, they just need training to be able to create the sound with their voice.

Indeed, music education researchers Helen Richards and Colin Durant claim in their frequently cited article, To Sing or not to Sing, that, “in the often musically elitist context of Western society, it [singing] is perceived as something that you either can or cannot do.” They also claim that everyone has the ability to learn to sing.

Brooke postulates that if singing were treated as an essential skill that can be learned just as reading is, then there would be far fewer adults who claim to be ‘non’ singers. Lets follow this analogy for a minute and pretend that singing is just like reading, a skill that takes training and a lot of practice, but that is considered by society to be an essential skill that everyone must learn.