Singing and Stuttering: The Science is Coming In

Yep. BB, too.One of the things about interviewing Dave Matthews that surprised me is that the man has a slight stutter when he speaks.  When he sings, it’s gone.  Interesting.

That’s why this press release from the Stuttering Foundation–which popped into my inbox this morning quite unexpectedly–piqued my curiosity.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The recent success of American Idol hopeful Lazaro Arbos has the entire country talking about singing and stuttering.

“Understanding what dramatically reduces stuttering during singing may eventually help us understand stuttering better,” explains Barry Guitar, Ph.D., of the University of Vermont, author of several Stuttering Foundation publications. He offers the following comments on singing and stuttering:

• There is now evidence that the brain functions differently for singing than it does for talking.

• In singing, we use our vocal chords, lips, and tongue differently than when we talk.

• There is no time pressure in singing nor is there any communicative pressure.

• When we sing, we generally know the words of the song by heart. “Word retrieval” or searching for the words may play a role in stuttering.

• Carly Simon, B.B. King, Bill Withers, Nancy Wilson and Mel Tillis are all famous examples of singers who stutter, according to the Stuttering Foundation,, a nonprofit founded in 1947.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Singing and Stuttering: The Science is Coming In

  • January 29, 2013 at 3:18 am

    Yes, this is an experience I know very well as a chronic stutterer who enjoys going to karaoke pretty much weekly. But for years of my youth nobody really encouraged me to sing, nor did I feel like I ever could, because we all just assumed it wouldn' t work. It was a joyous thing to figure out that I was wrong.


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