BBC 6 minute English-Singing in tune

BBC Learning

BBC 6 minute English-Singing in tune



Transcript of the podcast

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

.Neil: Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil

.Georgina: And I’m Georgina

!Neil: [Singing badly] DO, RE, MI, FA, SOL, LA, TI, DO

!Georgina: Neil! What are you doing?! Please stop

Neil: Oh, hi Georgina! I’m practising my singing. I’m going to do virtual karaoke tonight with some friends

Georgina: Karaoke?! – really, Neil?! I heard you singing at the Christmas party and to be honest I think you might be tone deaf – you know, you can’t sing in tune

!Neil: Me? Tone deaf?! I’m a nightingale! Listen: DO RE MIIII

Georgina: Between you and me, I think Neil is a bit tone deaf! Wait until I tell him singing is the subject of this programme

Neil: I heard that, Georgina! And I’m glad this programme is about singing because I love it and what I lack in ability, I make up for in enthusiasm

.Georgina: I’m sure your karaoke buddies would agree with you, Neil

Neil: That reminds me of my quiz question, Georgina. As you know, I love karaoke – meeting up with friends to sing the words of our favourite pop songs over a musical backing track. Karaoke was invented in Japan and its name is a combination of different Japanese words – but what words? What is the meaning of ‘karaoke’? Is it

?,a) machine voice
,b) angry cat?, or
?c) empty orchestra

Georgina: Well, after listening to you sing, Neil, I’m tempted to say b), angry cat, but that would be mean, so I’ll guess, a) machine voice

Neil: OK, Georgina. I’ll take that as a compliment. But however good – or bad – my singing may be, there’s no doubt that the act of singing itself is a very complex skill, involving a huge number of processes in our bodies and brains. So what happens physically when we sing a musical note

Georgina: Usually something unexpected in your case, Neil! So here’s Marijke Peters, presenter of BBC World Service programme, CrowdScience, to explain exactly what happens when we open our mouths to sing

:Neil: Listen out for the different body parts Marijke mentions

Marijke Peters

Vocal folds, also called vocal cords, are crucial here. They’re two flaps of skin stretched across your larynx that vibrate when you sing and create a sound. The pitch of that sound, how high or low it is, depends on the frequency of their vibration, so if you want to hit the right note they need to be working properly

Georgina: Important body parts needed to sing include the vocal cords – a pair of folds in the throat that move backwards and forwards when air from the lungs moves over them

Neil: The vocal chords are stretched over the larynx – also known as the voice box, it’s the organ between the nose and the lungs containing the vocal folds

Georgina: Singing is similar to what happens when you play a guitar. The vocal cords act like the guitar strings to produce a buzz or vibration – a continuous and quick shaking movement

.Neil: They vibrate over the larynx which, like the body of a guitar, amplifies the sound

Georgina: So why do some people (Neil!) find it hard to sing in tune? Is it because they cannot physically reproduce sounds? Or because they hear sounds differently from the rest of us

Neil: Well, according to psychology professor, Peter Pfordresher, it’s neither. He thinks that for poor singers the problem is generally not in the ears or voice, but in their brains – specifically the connection between sound perception and muscle movement

?Georgina: So there’s no hope for you

Neil: Not necessarily. Here’s Professor Pfordresher encouraging the listeners of BBC World Service’s, CrowdScience

Peter Pfordresher

I think there’s reason for you to be hopeful and however accurate or inaccurate your singing is, one recommendation I would have for you is to keep singing because there is evidence that singing itself, whether accurate or inaccurate, has benefits socially and also for stress responses, so good reason for you to keep it up

Georgina: Whether you’re tone deaf or pitch perfect, there’s lots of evidence for the health benefits of singing

Neil: For one, singing strengthens your stress responses. Otherwise known as ‘fight or flight’, stress responses are the human body’s reaction to external threats that cause an imbalance, for example pain, infection or fear

Georgina: From operatic Pavarottis to enthusiastic karaoke fans, Professor Pfordresher thinks singers should keep it up – a phrase used to encourage someone to continue doing something. So, Neil, maybe you should keep singing, after all

Neil: You’ve changed you tune, Georgina! Maybe you’d like to come with me to karaoke next time we’re allowed out

Georgina: Hmm, I think some practice would be a good idea, but first let’s return to the quiz question. You asked me about the meaning of the Japanese word karaoke

Neil: Right. Does karaoke mean, a) machine voice, b) angry cat, or c) empty orchestra? What did you say

.Georgina: I said a) machine voice

Neil: Which was… the wrong answer! Karaoke actually means c) empty orchestra, or in other words, music that has the melody missing

Georgina: Well, that’s better than an angry cat, I guess! Let’s recap the vocabulary starting with tone deaf – a way to describe someone who cannot sing in tune or hear different sounds

Neil: Like playing a guitar string, singers use their vocal cords – a pair of folds in the throat that are stretched over the larynx, or voice box, another part of the throat, to produce a sound vibration – a quick, shaking movement

Georgina: No matter how good or bad a singer you are, singing is good for your stress responses – the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism your body uses to regain inner balance

Neil: So no matter what Georgina thinks about my singing, I’m going to keep it up – a phrase used to encourage someone to continue their good performance

Georgina: That’s all from us. Keep singing and join us again soon at 6 Minute English. Don’t forget we also have a free app you can download from the app stores. Bye

!Neil: Goodbye

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