Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
What is the physiological difference between a good singer and a bad singer? © Getty Images

What is the physiological difference between a good and a bad singer?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

When done well, singing is a hobby that requires precise muscle control and coordination - so what makes some people better at this than others?

Asked by: Emma Brewer, by email


Singing involves very precise muscle coordination of the diaphragm, larynx and mouth. Like all coordination skills, this precision depends largely on the strength of the neural pathways in the brain that are used during that particular sequence of muscle contractions. As you practise singing, these pathways become strengthened and this will reinforce your technique – good or bad. Singing also depends on feedback from the auditory centre of the brain. People with perfect pitch don’t have better ears, it’s just that their auditory cortex can very accurately convert the memory of a note into the sequence of muscle movements needed to reproduce it.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.


luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


Sponsored content