Many of us like to sing professionally, while others sing in the shower, in their car, at karaoke or anytime they hear their favourite song.
Almost all of us love music and we join in with singing and chanting, whether at sports events, church, festivals and more.
It’s no secret that we are deeply connected to music, we have an appreciation for it and it’s a form of self-expression and a way to bring us together.
But, have you ever wondered why we are able to sing in the first place?
Many animals, humans included, produce a variety of sounds from screeching, growling, squawking, chirping and more.
These sounds can indicate a warning, marking your territory, fear and other forms of communication.
Singing, however, requires us to produce much more complex vocalisations and timbres.
Some birds possess the skill to perform intervals and scales, and it is often used to impress a potential mate.
This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, as physical characteristics develop because there is a necessity for them.
Why can humans sing and what need could we possibly have for singing?
Whatever it is, we must have developed our singing abilities a long time ago for us to have this incredibly complex anatomical device.
In this article, we explore the possible theories and reasons why singing is a big part of the human experience.
Does singing predate musical instruments?
Archaeological findings suggest the appearance of first hand axes about 1.7 million years ago, while spears were added to our toolset 500,000 years ago.
Yet our bone flutes and other early musical instruments are only 40,000 years old.
But does that mean we also started to make music around the same time?
Research suggests that, while musical instruments are relatively new inventions, music is significantly older and has been a part of our lives for much longer than originally anticipated.
Scientists have found that music facilitated our ancestors’ ability to communicate and may have been instrumental in establishing monogamy, as well as keeping them together as a larger social group.
One of the many differences that separated us from early primitive humans was their love for arts.
They crafted figurines, painted the walls of their caves and started making their own musical instruments, however, it is possible that singing was a part of early human life as well.
Evolution of singing voice
While homo sapiens had an innate appreciation for art, it is suggested that early human beings were much more primitive and were less likely to indulge in activities that are deemed unnecessary for survival.
But of course, they would have had some sort of melodies that they could whistle or hum whilst they hunt… who knows!
When we look to other primates who can sing, it is often used as a way to bond and create monogamy between the couple.
Lemurs, tarsiers, titi monkeys and gibbons all have the ability to sing.
When a female gibbon hears an accomplished singer, she is delighted to join in and, as they form a bond, they also begin to duet together.
Another theory highlights the connection between singing and speech and, in particular, singing as a way to convey emotion.
Even a wordless melody communicates feelings of sadness or happiness, and musical vocalisations may have been used to convey our emotions to other members of the group.
It is possible that music and language evolved from our innate need to communicate, unite and understand each other’s emotional state.
Another interesting theory looks at the way our anatomy differs from that of primates.
Human babies are born far more powerless and helpless than most other primates.
Anatomically, this makes perfect sense, as we have large brains even as we are born and, if they were any more developed at that stage, it could make childbirth especially painful for the mother.
As a result of our helplessness as newborns, we can’t cling to our mothers, and they have to carry us, which inhibits their ability to perform daily tasks.
It is suggested that mothers had to put their babies down regularly and used ‘baby talk’ or ‘motherese’ to signal they are nearby and to provide safety and comfort for their offspring.
This simple but vital need to communicate with our offspring may have been the catalyst for developing and evolving our singing voice to communicate with others, causing us to later achieve the complex, intricate vocals we can enjoy today.
Music and singing now
While all or a combination of theories for why we have evolved to sing might be true, research has a long way to go before reaching a definitive conclusion. It is fascinating how singing and speech are linked so closely and it’s interesting to explore where it all started, even before our homo sapiens ancestors.
‘Why can humans sing’ is still a mystery wrapped in multiple theories, but whatever happened, we are grateful for music in our lives and couldn’t imagine ourselves without it.
Today, singing is a way for us to express ourselves, it’s a form of art we enjoy consuming, but also a beneficial activity for us as individuals too. It is exhilarating, it prompts us to breathe deeper, making it comparable to meditation and it’s a way for us to connect with others.
When we reach adulthood, many shy away from singing, so why do we sing in the shower, or in our cars?
That may be the only time we’re alone and comfortable enough to break into a song.
If this is you and you secretly love to sing, we strongly recommend joining a local choir or taking up singing lessons. Take a look at our ‘no-fear’ singing lesson option if making singing lessons make you crawl away and hide in the dark…
You don’t have to be a professional to do it, but it will, without a doubt, bring many benefits to your quality of life.
Are you looking for singing lessons in London?
The esteemed professionals at London Singing institute will help you hone your vocal capabilities, tap into your authentic tone and help you sing better than you thought you could!
We offer friendly, adult beginner lessons in the London area for novices and experienced vocalists.
Give us a call at 020 7127 0717 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Tags: Why do we sing
, Early singing