The main reason people sing in the shower is because it is a time when they are relaxed and their mind is free from all inhibitions. Additionally, the acoustics in most bathrooms are perfect for singing, as the sound reverberates and resonates well. Finally, many people in the music industry leverage the bathroom acoustics to record songs or practice playing instruments.
Whether you’re Chance the Rapper, Madonna, Rihanna, or just an ordinary citizen, when you hit the bathroom, you’ll likely break into song at some point before the end of your shower—especially if you have music playing! Admit it, we all have attempted to recreate the magic of our favorite singers in the perceived privacy of the bathroom. Many of us have been bathroom singers for years!
But why is it that people start singing their hearts out in the shower, even though they wouldn’t do the same thing in front of a big crowd, even if they were paid a hefty sum?
As crazy as it sounds, there are few promising scientific explanations behind this widespread habit of bathroom-staged singing.
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Calm And Relaxed
When you think about it, a shower is one of the few times each day when a person is alone—seemingly far from the worries and stress of the materialistic world. For many, it’s the only time when they are completely alone, without another person, or without their phone. This isolated period of time—even though short-lived—can bring out the rockstar in a person.
Singing in a confined, secluded space has a calming and refreshing effect on people in the bathroom. Many experts believe that singing in the bathroom is like an infusion of a perfect tranquilizer with dual benefits: soothing the nerves and elevating the spirits.
People generally don’t sing when they’re sad (barring a few exceptions), but in the bathroom, they’re enclosed in a small, warm and safe environment. Our mind is free from all the inhibitions that it might be affected by in front of others or in a large room full of people. Therefore, a bathroom naturally becomes the ideal choice for breaking into a melody, as the mind is highly relaxed.
Also, when you relax, your brain releases dopamine (the pleasure hormone), which in turn kickstarts your creative juices, and singing is definitely a creative task!
When you’re in a mode of total relaxation and water is flowing over your body, your breathing improves. Since you tend to breathe a little deeper than normal in the bathroom, it further improves the oxygen supply in your blood, thereby ‘upping’ your circulation and instilling a good, energized feeling. The benefits of singing in the bathroom are similar to the benefits one gets from meditation.
Never Too Old To Sing In A Bathroom
Another good thing about singing in showers is that you’re never too old to sing. Research has found that singing in one’s old age in a confined space can improve the mental and oral condition. A study conducted by researchers at Tsurumi University on 44 elderly people (60+ years of age) examined the benefits of singing.
All 44 people who participated in this study were on some form of respiratory or cardiovascular medication. Height, weight, heartbeat and blood pressure were measured right before they were told to sing. Most of them sang three songs in a row, totaling over three minutes. After the singing activity, their blood samples were taken for further examination. Subjects were also asked to fill out a questionnaire.
The results of this study found that there was a decrease in cortisol, a hormone connected to stress. Subjects felt relaxed, relieved, and comfortable after singing, which was also evident from their answers to the questionnaire. This study concluded that there are both health and psychological benefits of singing in a confined space for elderly people.
The Sound Effects
Thus far, we have talked about how your body and mind can be rejuvenated when you sing in the bathroom, but we must also look at the physics involved in the bathroom and see how it makes the bathroom such an interesting place to showcase our musical talent!
The acoustics in most bathrooms is basically perfect to start a private little concert. For example, most bathrooms have tiles that barely absorb sound. In effect, this means that your voice reflects back and forth when you sing in the bathroom. This reflection also amplifies your voice, but it’s not just about loudness; the magic lies in two more phenomena: reverberation and resonance.
As the walls of the bathroom aren’t equidistant from your mouth; some of the sound waves travel a little farther and take a fraction of a second longer to reflect to your ears. Also, as the walls inside the bathroom are generally made of smooth hard surfaces, sound waves continue to bounce more frequently before fading. So, in a way, your sound persists longer inside the bathroom than it would in your living room. This effect is called reverberation. It gives you the impression that the note you sang lasted longer than you actually held it. Reverberation also tends to smooth the transition between notes.
In fact, many karaoke systems these days are designed to implement this reverberation effect electronically, which can subtly improve your sound while singing!
Your shower performance would still sound better than a reverberation technique-powered karaoke system because the bathroom boasts another acoustic property that is much harder to emulate: resonance.
In resonance, sound waves line up in just the right way to amplify the sound. During a shower, this often occurs because the wavelength of the note is just the right fit for the size of the bathroom—in a way that makes the peaks of the reflected waves line up. As a result, many of the notes will not only resonate, but also combine with other reflected sound waves in a way that cancels out some of the sounds. This resonance effect is much more noticeable with deeper bass tones, as they have longer wavelengths, i.e., there is more distance between the crests of the sound waves. Now, this effect of amplified and muted sound isn’t uniform throughout the bathroom. In a few spots in the bathroom, your notes would be a little muted, while in other spots it will sound awesome!
Music Industry Leveraging Bathroom Acoustics
The acoustics of sound in a bathroom is considered so good that singers often try to replicate or use a bathroom as a studio. For example, Jon Anderson, renowned singer and songwriter, has installed tiles in his recording studio to emulate the acoustics of a bathroom while recording. Many guitarists also like the sound effects generated in the bathroom setup. Paul Simon, a legendary guitarist, revealed that he often used to go to the bathroom for practice. He also preferred turning on the faucet, as the sound of flowing water would oftentimes embellish his guitar work. Alfred Mathew, popularly called Weird Al, recorded his first hit song “My Bologna” in the bathroom!
Truly, singing in the bathroom is one of the best habits that you can pick up, for all the reasons explained above and the pure joy that can come from a cathartic musical release. The bathroom offers a nice blend of biochemical, psychological, and acoustic conditions that promote a perfect atmosphere for performing, even if you’re a less-than-perfect singer!
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References (click to expand)
- Sakano, K., Ryo, K., Tamaki, Y., Nakayama, R., Hasaka, A., Takahashi, A., … Saito, I. (2014, May 21). Possible benefits of singing to the mental and physical condition of the elderly. BioPsychoSocial Medicine. Springer Science and Business Media LLC.
- Tajadura-Jiménez, A., Larsson, P., Väljamäe, A., Västfjäll, D., & Kleiner, M. (2010, June). When room size matters: Acoustic influences on emotional responses to sounds. Emotion. American Psychological Association (APA).
- Loersch, C., & Arbuckle, N. L. (2013). Unraveling the mystery of music: Music as an evolved group process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. American Psychological Association (APA).
- Why do we sing in the shower? | SiOWfa15 - Sites at Penn State. The Pennsylvania State University
- 'How about we record the guitars in the bath?' | Pop and rock. The Guardian
- Singing Changes Your Brain | TIME.com - Ideas. Time