Differences in use of auditory feedback do not account for age-related differences in children’s singing
Beck, Sara Lynn
Children’s ability to sing accurately increases with age such that older children show significantly better pitch matching abilities than younger children, better pitch discrimination abilities, and increased interval accuracy and key stability when singing a melody from memory. One possible reason for age-related singing improvement is that older children are more skilled at using auditory feedback to compare sung tones to an internal auditory representation in real time. The current study compared participants in three age ranges (five to eight years, nine to twelve years, and adults) on their ability to maintain baseline singing accuracy when auditory feedback was masked. Consistent with past research, older children and adults were more accurate singers than younger children in terms of interval accuracy, error variability, and stability of tonal center. Additionally, all participants sang better when they were able to hear themselves than when they had to rely on proprio-kinesthetic feedback. Our results showed that all three age groups experienced the same level of disruption to singing when they were unable to hear themselves, suggesting that younger children are relying on auditory feedback to control pitch just as much as older children and adults, and that differences in use of auditory information cannot explain age-related improvement in singing. The evidence suggests that poorer singing from younger children results either from less accurate auditory representations or less developed vocal-motor control, not differential use of auditory or proprio-kinesthetic feedback.