Too scared to sing in public? You can blame reality TV shows

August 18, 2022 2:30 am in by


A new study says reality TV shows like The Voice and X Factor are scaring off singing wannabes 

For some performers, the mere thought of singing solo in the spotlight can cause a crippling case of stage fright.

But now the incredible and occasionally intimidating vocal skills of reality TV contestants could be scaring wannabe singers right off the stage.

Not only could the fear factor deprive audiences of a potential singing sensation, but it might even prevent people from daring to warbling a tune, a study has found.

James Cook University psychology lecturer Amanda Krause says the findings could impact a wider participation in singing activities, something that offers significant health and well-being benefits for even the most tone deaf.

“We thought that exposure to the technically demanding reality television singing style (such as on The Voice, X Factor, Got Talent, and The Masked Singer) might negatively influence singing self-concept compared to hearing amateur singers or plain, unembellished singing by professionals,” Dr Krause said.

She said the reality was that singers on these shows used “belt” and “chest-mix” voices in their performances.

“Belt is where the singer uses sophisticated acoustic and physical strategies to achieve loud phonation and a bright timbre,” she said.

“Chest-mix voice maintains a strong vocal quality on higher pitches and using either is technically and stylistically demanding and the ability to do so is commonly the result of significant vocal training.”

To test the theory, the JCU team played one of four versions of Happy Birthday, rating from just piano and no singing, amateur singing, professional plain singing, or the way you might hear it on reality TV.

Participants then judged the performance and rated their own singing abilities.

“While other studies show most people can sing in tune and in time with reasonable accuracy, our results show that exposure to the reality TV style of singing may have negative impacts on people’s singing self-concept,” the study found.

“In much the same way as fashion models represent unattainable ideals of physical beauty for members of the general public, elite singing as portrayed in reality TV singing shows valorises a style of singing beyond the technical capability of most.”

The message was not to let the small screen reality discourage any crooner – from the amateur to the semi-professional – from singing in public.

“It’s important for music teachers and organisers to be aware of cultural influences on an individual’s singing self-concept,” Dr Krause said.

“In this way, with empathetic guidance, awareness, and support, even the most reluctant, inaccurately labelled ‘tone deaf’ singer can experience the many joys of singing.”

This research was published in the Journal of Voice.

© AAP 2022


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