Few people in the western world don’t know who Ed Sheeran is. The 26-year-old English musician is an international superstar, selling out venues everywhere he goes.
As a child, Sheeran was bullied because of his red hair and thick glasses. He has said that kids will always find someone different to pick on. To complicate matters for the young musician, Sheeran had a port wine stain birthmark on the left side of his face. Over the course of two years, he had it lasered off. At one session, they forgot to put the anesthetic on. This messed with his nerves and he developed a stutter. Listen to Sheeran explain the story at the American Institute for Stuttering Gala:
Stuttering, Music, and the Brain
Mr. Sheeran is not alone. Music certainly can help with stuttering. Lazaro Arbos, an American Idol contestant, is another example. His stutter simply disappears when he sings. While he has some pitch issues (probably nerves!), the stutter is gone.
Why does this happen? How does such a serious speech issue just vanish when the person suffering sings? Music has actually been used for years in the treatment of a range of speech disorders. Rep. Gabby Giffords used Melodic Intonation Therapy to help treat her aphasia, an inability to comprehend and formulate language, a result of her brain injury due to the attempt on her life.
But why can a stutter disappear for some folks when singing? The folks at the University of Iowa have some of the answers:
There are a few reasons why people who stutter don’t do so when they sing. One is called easy onset of speech, or easy voice, or smooth speech. This describes the way you sing. Think about it – you generally use a smoother and easier voice when you’re singing versus when you’re speaking. Speech therapists actually use the easy onset strategy when helping people who stutter.
Another reason why a person may not stutter while singing is because words are more prolonged (and less apt to be stumbled over) when they’re sung rather than spoken. Music is an activity in which you use the right side of the brain (language uses the left), so when you sing music, you’re no longer using your left brain (and probably no longer stuttering).
The bottom line is this: Whenever a child or adult who stutters talks differently than the way he usually does, he will be fluent. That includes using a stage voice or a foreign accent or dialect, whispering, singing, speaking to a rhythmic beat, using ‘baby talk’ and speaking at a lower or higher pitch than normal. Besides sounding and feeling unnatural, however, these ‘tricks’ rarely produce long-term fluency.
There you have it, friends. Yet another example of music’s awesome power. Music Therapy is such a young field. Just wait; I predict more and more amazing stories from this little-known area. Keep your ears open and listen to the music!