Singing Lessons for Respiratory Health: A Literature Review

J Voice. 2018 Jan;32(1):85-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jvoice.2017.03.021. Epub 2017 Apr 29.


Objective: Several studies have explored the role of music and singing as a treatment for respiratory symptoms. The objective of this paper was to review the current body of literature in regard to the use of singing as both a physiological and a psychological therapy for respiratory disease and assess the role the singing teacher might play in this treatment.

Study design: This is a literature review, discussion of results and directions for further research.

Method: Multiple databases were searched using keywords such as "respiratory," "physiotherapy," and "pulmonary" in conjunction with "singing." Studies that met selection criteria were summarized and analyzed.

Results: Seventeen studies pertaining to multiple conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis, cancer, Parkinson disease, quadriplegia, and multiple sclerosis were analyzed. All studies reported trends of positive physical and/or quality of life outcomes after a series of singing lessons, regardless of statistical significance. Several noted improvements in maximum expiratory pressure and overall breathing technique. Many studies included open-ended interviews revealing participants' perception of singing as an effective therapy that was fun, improved mood, taught breathing and breath control, was a good exercise for the lungs, and had improved physical functioning.

Conclusions: Singing can be used as an adjunctive treatment for respiratory disease, with the best results occurring after long-term study. Group lessons and a strong teacher relationship feed the need for social interaction and support, which can facilitate treatment compliance. Further research is warranted.

Keywords: Music therapy; Physiotherapy; Respiratory health; Singing; Voice pedagogy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / therapy*
  • Singing*