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PRESENTED BY TOM MILLETT
Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice, which is often contrasted with speech. Air is expelled with the diaphragm as with ordinary breathing, and the pitch is altered with the vocal cords. With the lips closed, this is called humming. A piece of music with a singing part, either a cappella or accompanied, is called a song; someone who sings is called a singer.
Most singing involves shaping the voice to form words, but types of voice instrumental music which use open sounds or nonsense syllables (“vocables”) also exist, for instance, scat singing and yodeling. Solfege assigns certain syllables to notes in the scale.
Nearly anyone who can speak can sing, since in many respects singing is merely sustained speech. It can be informal and just for pleasure, for example, singing in the shower; or it can be very formal, such as singing done professionally as a performance or in a recording studio. Singing at a high amateur or professional level usually requires a great deal of regular practice, and/or instruction. Top-quality singers will have instruction and training from coaches throughout their career.
According to Alfred Alexander (formally an ENT consultant to the home office), “a singer is a person of adequate musicality, who is gifted with a voice of such power and beauty that competent judges can recommend singing as a career”. Alexander belives that 1 in 50,000 in the UK possess such gifts, which means in England (800,000 births a year average) 16 people are born with such a voice a year, making 500 “first class voices” active in any particular generation (taken as 30 years) at any one time.
Singing is often done in a group, such as a choir, and may be accompanied by musical instruments, a full orchestra, or a band. Singing with no instrumental accompaniment is called a cappella.
At the highest professional level it is imperative that singers continuously practice with drills, voice exercises and strengthening activities and that without constant practice, a singer’s range can be significantly decreased, requiring extra rehearsal to regain the voice’s previous capability, much in the same way as any professional level musician must practice constantly with their instrument. However singing is a very natural activity and this kind of intensive practice is not usually nescessary for most singers especially outside the field of classical music and where amplification is available, or for semi-professional singers.
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