Singing Is Learned, Not a Natural Ability: More Evidence

Glad the issue of learning over “natural talent” is getting more attention, and not just from researchers like Steven Demorest and Peter Pfordresher (et al.), who just published a research paper on the subject. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Chicago Tribune article.


Singing is more of a learned skill than a natural talent, said Steven Demorest, a music education professor at Northwestern University who recently published a study in the journal Music Perception that compared the singing accuracy of kindergartners, sixth-graders and college-age adults.

“People tend to think of singing as a characteristic, either you have it or you don’t,” Demorest said. “We think it has a lot more to do with how much you do it.”

To be certain, he’s not promising Beyonce-level skills. Singing on pitch does come easier for some, and some people pick it up more quickly.

But for those who have been shunned for a lack of ability, that “tone deaf” label can carry with it damaging consequences long after it’s uttered.

“This poor musical self-image can shape future engagement in music, and the negative experiences of childhood are remembered vividly well into adulthood,” Demorest and co-author Peter Pfordresher, of the University at Buffalo, wrote in their paper.


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