Perception and action in singing

Prog Brain Res. 2011;191:103-18. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53752-2.00010-2.


Singing is an important cultural activity, yet many people are hesitant to sing, because they feel they do not sing well. This chapter reviews the work that has been done concerning singing among nonmusicians, focusing on pitch accuracy, which is one of the most important aspects of singing. First, we look at the prevalence of poor pitch singing and examine what it means to be a poor singer. Next, we look at the possible causes of poor singing and examine the possible roles of perceptual deficits, sensorimotor translation deficits, motor control deficits, and feedback deficits. Whereas many previous studies have tried to explain poor singing by positing perceptual problems, we argue that the current evidence supports sensorimotor translation deficits and motor control deficits as the more likely causes. Finally, we examine the neural bases of singing and the possibility of a dual-pathway basis for pitch perception and production. Based on these studies, we suggest changes to improve the singing abilities of poor singers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Feedback
  • Humans
  • Music*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Voice*